Former NASCAR racer Dick Trickle has died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 71.

Trickle - the oldest driver to win the Rookie of the Year award at the age of 48 back in 1989 - was found by emergency units dispatched to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Boger City.

Authorities were responding to a phone call, which appeared to be from Trickle himself, warning that there 'would be a dead body and it would be his'.

Trickle, who was famous for smoking cigarettes in his car during races, made more than 300 starts in the Sprint Cup in a career that spanned almost quarter of a century, with 36 top ten finishes. A 15th place finish in the standings during his Rookie of the Year campaign proved to be his career high point.

While he failed to win a race at the highest level, Trickle won twice in the Busch Series and also clinched multiple short-track titles earlier in his career.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Dick Trickle on his passing today," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a statement. "Dick was a legend in the short-track racing community, particularly in his home state of Wisconsin, and he was a true fan favorite.

"Personalities like Dick Trickle helped shape our sport."