In 1960, Pearson bought his own late model Chevrolet race car and headed to Daytona where he came in 18th. He raced in the first World 600 and came in 10th. Then in 1961, David went on to win three major victories-the World 600, the Firecracker 250 and the Dixie 400 at Atlanta-making him the first man to win, in a single year, on three of NASCAR's Big Four tracks. Pearson was named Rookie of the Year for NASCAR that season, and became known as a charger.
In 1964, Pearson won eight races on the short tracks and was the fastest qualifier 12 times. In 1966, driving for Dodge, he won 10 of his 15 Grand National victories on dirt tracks, and then earned enough points on the superspeedway to win the first of his three NASCAR championships. Pearson switched to Ford, and in 1968, drove the Ford to 16 victories and 36 finishes in the top five.
In 1969, Pearson became the first man to break the 190 mph barrier at Daytona, qualifying his Ford Talladega at 190.029 mph. He then went on to win the 125-mile qualifying race. In March at Rockingham, he scored a victory in the Carolina 500 and gained victories on each on the South's existing superspeedways.
In all, Pearson entered 572 races, out of which he won 105, and placed within the top five 301 times. Pearson was the NASCAR Winston Cup Champion in 1966, 1968 and 1969.
David Pearson, The Silver
Fox: What If?
By Orlena Miller
If David Pearson had competed in as many NASCAR events as Richard Petty it’s possible our sport would have crowned a different man king. In 574 starts Pearson won 105 times. This gives him a winning percentage of slightly over eighteen-percent, Petty’s is about seventeen-percent. However, while Pearson raced for 27 years he seldom ran a complete season. In 1973 David entered only eighteen races, he won 11 of these events. The "what ifs" boggle the mind.
David Pearson was born in Whitney, SC on December 22, 1940. He began his illustrious career in 1952 in a hobby car race, he won $13.00. Racing throughout the Carolinas for several years David made his way to Daytona in 1960 and won Rookie of the Year honors that season. As they say in the garage, David Pearson was the "real deal."
Nicknamed the "Silver Fox", Pearson was a master at showing just enough of what he had to stay in the hunt while saving his car for the final sprint to the checkers. H. A. "Humpy" Wheeler, President and General Manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway says, "You never saw Pearson in a race, particularly at a superspeedway, until the end. The last ten-percent, he’d show up. Where was he the rest of the time? He was buried back in eighth or ninth or tenth, just waiting." Pearson would patiently wait to make his move, like a fox bides his time until the chicken coop is left unattended.
Without a doubt, David Pearson and Richard Petty were cut from the same cloth. Both were hard charging, go for broke competitors. Leading the list of all time winners Petty and Pearson dominated the sport throughout the ‘60’s and 70’s. Their rivalry brought unprecedented exposure and legions of new fans to the sport. Some of the most memorable finishes in NASCAR history were between Pearson and Petty. The pair finished one-two, sixty-three times, with the Silver Fox leading the way thirty-three times, to King Richard’s thirty.
In the 1974 Firecracker 400 Pearson had the best car, but he knew that with superspeedway racing the best car does not always win. David Pearson charged across the line to take the white flag with Richard Petty a close second. Suddenly Pearson slowed, everyone, including Richard Petty thought there was a problem. But foxy as always and fearing the slingshot Pearson knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, Petty passed him with ease. When the #43 car was a few hundred feet out front, Pearson jumped into the wash of air from Petty’s car. With a perfectly executed slingshot of his own David powered past Petty to win the race.
The final lap of the 1976 Daytona 500 is widely considered the most dramatic finish in the history of NASCAR. As the laps wound down David Pearson and Richard Petty were sizing each other up. Both drivers were accomplished on superspeedways. However, in seventeen starts Pearson had never won the Great American Race. David and Richard traded the lead back and forth for the last twenty laps. The crowd was on their feet, they knew that classic Petty-Pearson finish was unfolding.
Petty was leading as the pair entered turn one on the final lap. Everyone waited to see when Pearson would make his move and slingshot past the STP car. As they entered turn three the Silver Fox took the lead but drifted high, Petty went low to retake the point exiting three. Into turn four Petty led Pearson by half a car length. Coming out of four Petty caught the left front of the #21 Puralotor car and sent it into the wall. Fighting to maintain control of the #43, Petty overcorrected and also hit the wall. As Richard’s Dodge slid across the track into the grassy infield, the engine died. The car came to rest less than 50 yards short of the start finish line.
As he spun off the wall, Pearson popped the clutch on his Mercury and kept the engine fired. "Where’s Richard?" Pearson shouted into his radio. Glen Wood replied, "He’s stuck in the grass." With no other cars on the lead lap David limped across the line to his only Daytona 500 victory. After the race someone asked David if he was mad at Petty, he replied, "Nah, but I was fixin’ to be if I hadn’t won the race."
David Pearson finished ninth in points in 1976, it was his last time in the top ten. A frustrated Pearson left the Wood Brothers after a pit miscue at Darlington in 1979. On lap 302 Pearson pitted, the pit crew planned a four-tire change, but David thought it was a two-tire stop. The jack dropped after the right side tires were on and David took off. He lost the left side tires at the end of pit road and finished twenty-second. Later that year, driving for Hoss Ellington, Pearson claimed his 105th and final victory, also at Darlington.
In addition to being a fierce side-by-side racer, Pearson was a demon when it came to qualifying. One lap holding nothing back, pushing the limit suited David’s style. He recorded 113 poles, 58 on superspeedways. From 1973 to 1978 Pearson claimed an incredible 11 consecutive poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Silver Fox also mastered the treacherous track at Darlington. With 10 wins and 12 poles he is the winningest driver in the history of the legendary track.
During his NASCAR career David Pearson never had so much as a suture as a result of an on-track incident. He never broke a bone or spent a night in the hospital. However, persistent back spasms forced the Silver Fox to retire from driving in 1986. And the "what ifs" began.
You can contact Orlena at: Insider Racing News
David Pearson, a native of South Carolina, has been called the smoothest driver of all time. His 105 career wins have earned him a spot in numerous motorsports museums as well as recognition as one of NASCAR'S 50 greatest drivers. It also gained him the nickname of "The Silver Fox".
In 1952, at the age of seventeen, Pearson started his driving career, racing a 1940 Ford in a hobby race in Woodruff, South Carolina. He won $13, but had so much fun that he knew then racing would be his life.
Pearson bought a late model Chevrolet in 1960 and headed for the high banks of Daytona, finishing 18th in his first Daytona 500. Later that year, he placed 10th in the first World 600 in Charlotte. In 1961, he became the first driver to win at three of NASCAR's Big Four tracks in the same year by posting victories at Charlotte, Daytona and Atlanta. For that he was named Rookie of the Year by NASCAR.
In 1964, Pearson won eight times and grabbed a dozen poles. Two years later, driving for Dodge, he won the first of his three Winston cup championships by posting 15 victories. In 1968, Pearson switched to Ford, winning 16 races and finishing in the top five 36 times en route to his second championship.
Pearson set the stage for his third championship in 1969 by becoming the first man to drive a stock car over 190 miles-per-hour at Daytona, grabbing the pole for the Daytona 500 with a speed of 190.029 mph.
His career is perhaps best known for his wins with the Wood Brothers in the famous #21 Purolator Mercury. From 1972 thru 1978, Pearson put their cars in victory lane an amazing 43 times and was the fastest qualifier 51 times.
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