Dylan Coyle
By Dylan Coyle on October 17, 2022

Loss of a Legend

Saturday, October 1 was supposed to be a fun day.

My favorite soccer team, the Philadelphia Union, were playing Charlotte F.C. for the first time in Charlotte, NC. I joined a tailgate with a group of 50 Union supporters who came down from Philadelphia to cheer on the Zolos - one of the names we affectionately call the Union - and rally the team to a victory. I was even more excited, because it was my birthday.

It just so happened that our World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series races in South Carolina and Georgia that weekend were canceled due to the impending Hurricane Ian sweeping its way through the region.

Typically, around 2:30 p.m., we would be readying ourselves to go for the moment gates opened at the racetrack. But this 2:30 p.m. was different.

My phone vibrated. It was a message from World Racing Group CEO Brian Carter into our company WhatsApp.

"It is with great sadness and shock that I relay the news that we lost our brother Rick Eshelman."

I had to walk out of the tailgate and find a wall to sit down on. I called my mom. Tears started rolling down.

I called Late Model Public Relations Coordinator Mike Warren to express my shock. He had to write the release. 

I called Fan Entertainment Coordinator Mitchell Hedstrom. He was lost for words. 

I just sat there. Sad. Angry. I was hurting. We all were. We all are.

The news of Rick's passing was a shock to the racing community. He touched so many people's lives.

I’ve thought a lot about life and the fragility of it over the last few weeks. How important it is to care for others and treat people kindly, to leave an impact on everyone you meet in a positive way. You never know when you’ll last share memories with them. You may never know what they say or feel about you.

I’m happy to have had a strong relationship in my only year of knowing Rick. I truly looked up to him. To me, he was everything I wanted in a mentor: kind, zany, attentive, and a great joke-teller. God, his jokes… so bad sometimes, yet so good.

He left a huge impact on me, and I’ll always strive to be a professional the way he was.

I remember sitting in the Marion Center Speedway press box with him, Hedstrom, Marketing Representative Andrew Boone, and DIRTVision Producer Brendan McDowell, while he was just cracking the worst - but, somehow, best - jokes. One after the other. Boone particularly couldn't contain his laughter at one joke topic, but like many of Rick's best jokes, putting them in print would elevate this post's safety rating.

Every time I would come off the microphone for the remainder of the night, I had to make sure Rick would get the mic back. He always gave me a fist bump whenever I came to the tower to hand it off.

After every race, he would tell me his thoughts on my on-air performance. It was typically positive. He always knew how to motivate me to strive for the best.

At Mississippi Thunder Speedway, Rick and I were on camera together in the broadcast booth talking about fan engagement and the Be An Outlaw program. At one point, Rick cracked a joke about me being short and started laughing. I retorted with a joke about him being old, and he started cackling.

He and I had a really good rapport on-air together - like he had with everyone - but it was off-air that I really got to know him.

One of my favorite memories of our time together was at the York Revolution baseball game in August before our race at Williams Grove Speedway. He had just been inducted into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame. It was a dream of his, but he downplayed it whenever someone made a fuss about it. He didn't want to be seen as elevated compared to anyone else.

He and I spent hours by ourselves in the car and then the stadium before anyone else got there. We were watching the field get hosed down and raked.

We talked about life. His career. Personal struggles. I knew he was always in my corner, and him being as candid as he was was refreshing to me.

Later in the night, he was dressing up as a hamburger bun getting jumped on by Warren on the field for a mid-inning game.

That's just how Rick rolled.


We were the last ones to leave the game, watching until there was no chance of a comeback by the Lancaster Barnstormers. We reminisced about the day and looked forward to more nights like it.

I truly miss him.

What happens going forward? I have no idea, but I do know we will do everything in our power to honor Rick's memory on the tour going forward. He was "The Voice" of Late Model racing. We race for the first time since his passing in Kansas and Missouri, Oct. 21-23. It will be emotional for us all. But, it is necessary to feel the emotions we are bound to feel for the healing process to play out. 

Although Rick may be gone in our world, the idea of who he is and what he stood for will continue on in his family.

We will always miss you, Rick. Thanks for being you. Unapologetically you.

Published by Dylan Coyle October 17, 2022
Dylan Coyle