The Quick Bio
A relaxed David Pearson has...
A relaxed David Pearson has a laugh the day before the Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan International Speedway. He won the event by 1.2 seconds over Cale Yarborough.
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...
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...
Pearson, winner of the 1972 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. The Silver Fox won 105 times in his career second on the all time list.
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
Richard Brooks drafts behind...
Richard Brooks drafts behind David Pearson’s No. 33 Pontiac in the 1971 Motor State 500 at Michigan International Speedway. Pearson in a Pontiac was a rare sight—of his 574 starts only 28 were in a Pontiac. He took the marque to Victory Lane three times, all in the 1961 season. Here he finished 33rd after suffering an ignition problem.
Pearson concentrates while...
Pearson concentrates while readying for the 1966 World 600 at Charlotte. He qualified fourth, led the most laps (134), but suffered an accident and finished 17th. The race was won by Marvin Panch driving a Richard Petty-owned Plymouth.
Pearson hits the pits in the...
Pearson hits the pits in the 1979 Talladega 500 where he’d finish Second just over a minute behind Darrell Waltrip. He was driving a Rod Osterlund Oldmobile, you can almost make out the Lowe’s logo on the hood.
Pearson’s modest house and...
Pearson’s modest house and Torino station wagon, quite different from what today’s NASCAR star would have.
The grandstands of Evergreen...
The grandstands of Evergreen Speedway in Washington state were jammed two hours before race time. The 7,200-plus fans were all waiting to see NASCAR superstar David Pearson. It was Pearson’s first visit to Washington state and he brought along a friend. That’s Ralph Seagraves to Pearson’s left. Seagraves was R.J. Reynold’s President of Special Events Operations and in conjunction with Junior Johnson roundly was credited with bringing the Winston sponsorship to NASCAR.
Pearson readies for action...
Pearson readies for action in the 1970 Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. He led 34 laps in a Holman-Moody Ford but was involved in a late-race accident six laps from the finish. Still, he finished Eighth.
A familiar sight, Pearson...
A familiar sight, Pearson battling Petty. This battle took place in the 1977 Dixie 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Pearson would finish Second, 2 seconds behind winner Darrell Waltrip. Petty came home Sixth.
The June 1980 race at Michigan...
The June 1980 race at Michigan was under an extended rain delay. Thinking the race would be canceled Pearson left the track. When informed that the race was on, he ended up having to run to his car. Backup driver D.K. Ulrich was already buckled in the Hawaiin Tropic Chevrolet when Pearson came running down pit road. Ulrich got out and Pearson got in, but had run only 173 of the race’s 200 laps when engine failure sidelined him.
Perhaps one of the most replayed...
Perhaps one of the most replayed highlights in NASCAR history. The end of the 1976 Daytona 500 saw Petty and Pearson fighting for the lead. They tangled coming out of Turn 4, both crashing hard. Pearson was able to get his Wood Brothers entry going before Petty and limped across the finish line to claim his lone Daytona 500 victory.
Pearson crouches over a short...
Pearson crouches over a short track car at an unnamed speedway. Judging from the Purolator hat, this photo would have been taken between 1973 and 1978, the years he was sponsored by the filter company.
Pearson drove just four races...
Pearson drove just four races early in the 1981 season for Joe Halpern in the Halpern Enterprises Chevrolet. His best finish was Fourth at Darlington. That’s Cale Yarborough in the No. 27 drafting him.