By Eric Huenefeld
LOVES PARK, Ill. — The 2013 version of the National Short Track Championships (NSTC) at Rockford Speedway, 9572 Forest Hills Road, Loves Park, Ill., will mark the end of an era. The 48th installment of the annual Super Late Model race marks the final time that Rich Bickle will race at Rockford Speedway. The 52-year-old from Edgerton, Wis., who has competed in the highest levels of stock car racing, has made it known that this season will be his last behind the wheel. However, just because Bickle is walking away does not mean he has slowed down.
This season, Bickle has raced all across the Midwest, along the way notching his fourth Slinger Nationals title while also pocketing the season-ending 100-lap feature event at Madison International Speedway. Bickle now returns to Rockford, one of the tracks that helped him get his start more than 30 years ago. Last September, Bickle became a two-time winner of the NSTC, winning the 200-lap main event Sunday afternoon 22 years after winning his first.
Back in 1990, Bickle out-dueled Georgia’s Mike Garvey and South Carolina’s Randy Porter for his first triumph in what was a 300-lap main event. In the years after, Bickle would begin to branch out in his racing ventures, eventually finding a home in NASCAR. Bickle competed in the NASCAR Cup, National Series and Truck Series, finding much success in the Truck Series driving for the likes of Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip.
Last year at the NSTC, Bickle muscled past Brian Johnson Jr. with 45 laps remaining to take the lead, then held off the furious late-race charge of 22-year-old Casey Johnson while racing to the victory.
The 48th Annual National Short Track Championships will be Friday-Sunday, Sept. 27-29, at Rockford Speedway. Fourteen divisions will be competing over the three days, featuring Super Late Models, the Big 8 Late Model Series, Great Northern Sportsman Series, Mid-American Stock Car Series and much more. For more information, call Rockford Speedway at (815) 633-1500 or visit www.rockfordspeedway.com.
From the Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2013, issue