David Pearson, racing legend, dies

Published on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

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David Pearson, racing Hall of Fame driver, died Monday.

David Pearson, racing Hall of Fame driver, died Monday.


David Pearson, called NASCAR’s Silver Fox for his cunning driving that led him to three championships, died Monday in Spartanburg. He was 83.

Pearson’s rivalry with Richard Petty is one of the most storied in auto racing. Pearson’s 105 victories in 27 seasons only trailed Petty’s 200 on NASCAR’s all-time list.

No details were announced on the cause of death for the Hall of Fame drive. Pearson’s family announced in 2014 he had a stroke.

Winston Kelley, the Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, issued a statement on Pearson’s passing:

“On behalf of everyone at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we offer our most sincere condolences to Ricky, Larry, Eddie and the entire Pearson family. A member of the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, David was indisputably one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history — and one of the greatest in all forms of motorsports of all time. His driving style epitomized his nickname: “The Silver Fox.” “He had an incredible feel for any race car he drove and knew when to save his equipment and when and how hard to push his equipment at just the right time. The epic battles between David and his rival, good friend and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, were key factors in the growth of NASCAR. Their rivalry grew our sport’s following through the 1960s and 1970s and to this day they are the two winningest drivers in NASCAR premier series history. Richard has always acknowledged that David was his toughest competitor on the track. Through their intense and epic battles, they maintained immense respect for one another during their driver days and beyond. David made an indelible mark on NASCAR history, and it is because of competitors like him that NASCAR is what it is today. We are forever indebted to David and are proud to help ensure his incredible legacy will forever be remembered.”

Pearson and Petty combined for 63 finishes in which the two finished first and second to each other. Pearson won 33.

“David Pearson could beat you on dirt, he could beat you on pavement, he could beat you on a road course, he could beat you on a short track or he could beat you on a superspeedway,” Petty told Sports Illustrated in 1998. “I never felt as bad losing to David as I did some of the others because I knew just how good he was.”

Pearson was more of a quiet, calm personality than the charismatic Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson.. So casual was Pearson’s driving skills he often smoked, driving one-handed while competing, thanks to a cigarette lighter he kept on the dashboard of his racecar.

Pearson never competed in a full season, driving the bulk of his career with the Wood Brothers in his famous No. 21 car. His win total came in 574 starts — less than half of Petty’s 1,184.

A panel of 40 longtime experts in the sport voted Pearson, in 1999, as Sports Illustrated’s NASCAR Driver of the Century.






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