The legendary David Pearson, who won three NASCAR premier series championships without once running a complete schedule, has passed away at 83 years of age.
Born in Whitney, S.C. in December of 1934, Pearson won 105 races in a mere 574 starts, second only to his rival, and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer, Richard Petty. He won his three titles in 1966 and 1968-69.
“David Pearson’s 105 NASCAR premier series victories and his classic rivalry in the 1960s and ’70s with Richard Petty helped set the stage for NASCAR’s transformation into a mainstream sport with national appeal,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France. “When he retired, he had three championships – and millions of fans. Petty called him the greatest driver he ever raced against. We were lucky to be able to call him one of our champions.
“The man they called the ‘Silver Fox’ was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence. On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of David Pearson, a true giant of our sport.”
While he never won a championship while driving their Ford and Mercury cars, Pearson is indelibly linked with the famed Wood Brothers. From 1972 to 1979, Pearson and the Virginia-based Woods, led by NASCAR Hall of Famers Glen and Leonard, won 43 victories. Notable among these was the eventful 1976 Daytona 500, in which Pearson staggered to an impressive finish after colliding with Petty coming down to take the checkered flag.
A fierce qualifier, Pearson once fashioned 11 consecutive pole positions at Charlotte Motor Speedway, setting a NASCAR premier series record that still stands today. He was also willing to run long (500-600 mile) races, though, at a pace balancing speed and sustainability, allowing for him to keep his position on the track and still make a push at the end. This skill and cunning garnered him the nickname “The Fox” – as in sly – and this later became “The Silver Fox” as his hair began to grey.
Pearson’s abilities were perhaps best displayed through his utter mastery of South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway, once the hub of NASCAR stock car racing and not at all far from where the driver grew up in Spartanburg. Inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, Pearson claimed 10 victories at the track, dubbed “Too Tough To Tame” – a 1.366-mile, egg-shaped monster that set the stage for in NASCAR’s paved, superspeedway era in 1950. He won three Southern 500s, run during the heat and humidity of Labor Day week, which ranked as the sport’s greatest test of endurance for driver and car alike.
We at RacingJunk send our condolences and best wishes for those who knew and admired Pearson. His memory will certainly endure thanks to his impressive accomplishments in the world of racing.