A relaxed David Pearson has a laugh the day before the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan
The Quick Bio
Born: December 22, 1934
Hometown: Spartanburg, SC
Wife: Helen Pearson
Children: Larry, Ricky, Eddie
David and I had some very good races together. I remember racing one time at Darlington in Leo Jackson’s Sportsman car, these days that would be same as the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I remember thinking I had the thing won—after all I had a pretty decent lead on the white flag. But Pearson was the next car behind me and I guess I was paying too much attention to him in the rearview mirror.
He actually kind of backed up a little bit away from me, and I went into the third turn too hard and let the car drift a bit too high. That let Pearson get underneath me and he beat me back to the start/finish line and won the race. He laughed about that, of course. I laughed too, but not as much as he did.
Pearson had many rides but none was more famous than the Wood Brothers’ Purolator Mercury.
I remember another race we had at Darlington—I don’t think it was the very next race but it was soon after. That time I pushed it about as hard as it would go and I lapped him. Well, on a caution we had, I pulled up beside him and saw him motioning me to slow down! David always tried to drive the car to make sure it would make it to the end. But I just shook my head no because I wasn’t going to take a chance on him passing me on the last lap again. Nothing happened to my car and it held together so I managed to win that race and he ran Second, and I liked that result a lot better than the first time around.
We had a lot of good races together. Pearson was a great driver, obviously, from all the wins he had. He was just always so smooth and kept his race car out of trouble. When the race started he may not look like the car to beat, but he was always there racing at the end. That’s why they called him the “Silver Fox.”
It seemed like somehow he would wind up in the Top 5 every race unless he had a mechanical problem. And I guess he had fewer mechanical problems than most of the other guys because he looked out for his race cars.
Pearson, winner of the 1972 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The Silver Fox won 105
I enjoyed racing with Pearson very much. I think he isn’t given the credit that he deserves as a great race car driver. For example, I think Pearson was probably the best driver ever at Darlington. He just knew how to get through the third and fourth turns—which today are Turns 1 and 2. But there was a technique for getting through the third and fourth turns, and the key was never to overdrive the entrance to the third turn, and then once you got in there you could pick the throttle back up and drive the remainder flat footed, wide open. And I mean if you knew the trick and did it right, you could come off of that fourth turn and onto the straightaway and you really were carrying some speed.
Pearson had those turns perfected, there was no doubt about it. And when I came down (from Wisconsin) I enjoyed racing at Darlington but I was by no means the best at it. But Pearson taught me a lesson on how to drive Turns 3 and 4 and I never forgot it. That lesson really stuck. And it helped me in my career at Darlington after that. I know I enjoyed a lot more success there because of him.
Did You Know?
• Winner of the 1960 NASCAR Rookie of the Year Award at the Age of 25
• Three-Time NASCAR Cup Champion (1966, 1968, 1969)
• Pearson Likely Could Have Doubled His Championship Count but Rarely Ran Complete Seasons
• In 1974 Finished Third in Final Standings Despite Competing in Only 19 of 30 Races
• Won 105 Times in 574 Starts for an Incredible 18.3 Winning Percentage
• Racing Career Spanned 27 Years (1960-1986)
• Pearson Reportedly Quit Cotton Owens’ Race Team Midway Through the 1967 Season Over a Disagreement Over Who Would Drive the Team’s Hauler
• Won 10 Races and 12 Pole Positions at Darlington Raceway
• Won Fan Voting for NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in 1979 Despite Competing in Only Nine Events