“The Rich Bickle Story…Barnyard to Brickyard”

“The Rich Bickle Story…Barnyard to Brickyard”
Author: Rich Bickle with John Close

by Paul Gohde

He started his “racing career” on roller skates at nine years old, modifying them to get an edge on his youthful competition. He moved on to dirt track Motocross bikes, and finally made his oval track debut in 1977 at southern Wisconsin’s Jefferson Speedway where he destroyed a Hobby Stock mount just a few laps into the race.

The story of Edgerton, WI native Rich Bickle’s “unfiltered” move from those humble beginnings to become an almost NASCAR star, is told in great first-person detail by Bickle himself along with veteran motorsports writer and public relations co-author John Close.

In their book Barnyard to Brickyard…The Rich Bickle Story, the pair recount second-generation racer Bickle’s rise to dominance in some of the country’s richest short track events as well as his ups and downs while working for 17 seasons to elevate his career in the three national traveling series of NASCAR, having recorded over 250 career wins .

Close remembers his friend’s three Craftsman Truck Series wins, highlighting that final 1997 victory at Martinsville Speedway where his Darrell Waltrip-owned Diehard Chevrolet was fastest in practice and won the pole. Fearing a runaway in the race, Bickle learned a lesson in the sanctioning body’s race management plan. He recounts that NASCAR Director of Competition Dennis Huth told him “not to stink up the show.”  “He basically told me if I went all out, they would find a way to take the race from me,” the outspoken Bickle recounted. “But this was NASCAR, and I had to agree with him because I was pretty much convinced that if I didn’t do what he said, they would somehow find a way to screw me out of winning that race.”…a race that he finally won after loud pleading on the radio by his crew chief to slow down and make the finish close.

But that wasn’t Bickle’s style of racing, and with other issues that arose while driving in the Winston Cup Series as a sub for Hendrick Motorsports’ Terry Labonte at Pocono in 2000, the Badger-state invader began to see his underfunded NASCAR efforts fade away, despite having won more than $2.2 million down south.

In their 195-page paperback book, Close and Bickle use over 150 photos to illustrate the changes in racecar design from that first effort at Jefferson,WI, to his sleek, modern, post-retirement comeback cars that he still wheels at annual special events like Florida’s Snowball Derby and the Nationals at the Slinger Speedway near Milwaukee.

Bickle, now 59, plans to retire for good after the 2021 season; a retirement that will be a loss for race fans and media who like to hear racing truths, Bickle-style.

Having known Close for many years as a prolific motorsports’ writer, I’m sure this book, his fifth NASCAR effort, was a labor of love. John also spent 14 seasons as Bickle’s race day spotter, giving him access to much of the insider information found in this easy-to-read work. The book, which would make a welcome Christmas gift, was published by MB Global Solutions/Green Bay, WI and is available as a paperback ($24.95), or an e-book ($6.95), on,, or other select motorsports-related websites.




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