As businesses and racetracks begin to reopen around the country, the lives of drivers are starting to get busier. This is true for five-time Snowball Derby winner Rich Bickle, who gets set to reopen his business while preparing for his first race of the 2020 season Sunday at Slinger Super Speedway, a track where he’s earned two track championships and four Slinger Nationals victories.
Bickle tested at the high-banked quarter-mile in the last couple of weeks, marking his first time behind the wheel since the Snowball Derby back in December. It marked the end of a historic break away from the wheel for the Wisconsin legend.
“We tested last week or the week before. I had to think back to when the last time I wasn’t in the car for six months, it’s been since the Derby. It had to have been 1981,” Bickle told Speed51. “It felt good to get back in the car and make some laps. I was pretty happy, the car was really fast.”
The Slinger season opener was originally scheduled for last Sunday, May 17 before Mother Nature postponed the event one week due to rain. Bickle had planned on making his Rattler 250 debut on Sunday before the rainout caused a scheduling conflict.
“We went testing Saturday and, of course, it was a beautiful day out, then Sunday it rained all day long. It was rescheduled for this weekend, we were planning on going to the Rattler but with the rainout we’re now scheduled to run there.”
Even though he will not be at the Rattler Sunday afternoon, the uncertainty behind the future of the state of Wisconsin may see him south for more races than in years past.
Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers had dropped his plan that would have reinstated parts of the state’s stay-at-home order that had been ruled unconstitutional Monday afternoon, setting the stage for racing to return in the Badger State. However, local regulations will still play a factor in racing’s return in pockets of the state.
“It’s so hard to say, our Governor up here was talking about opening up here quickly and now he’s talking about putting the screws to us and close everything back down for six months so I don’t know what’s going on. If nothing else, we’ll come race down south if we can, we’ll see what happens.
“We had planned on running the (Midwest) Tour, running all the specials up here and running as many races as we can down there. There’s plenty of down south cars and plenty of cars up here, it’s just unfortunate the rules are so different.”
As the 2020 season gets set to begin, Bickle has said this year and 2021 will be his last two years behind the wheel before he retires. His team has added new equipment to the stable and is ready to start the final two-year run to the finish for one of the greatest short track racers of all-time.
“We’ve got a couple new cars. We built a new car to go to the Derby and I wished we had some laps on it before we got there, but the car was actually pretty good once we got into the race, unfortunate that we got taken out. We’ve got one more of those cars put together, another Toby (Nuttleman) car. We’ve got a pretty good stable of cars for the next two years.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo