This October the Nascar Hall of Fame selection committee will announce the first five entrants into a special realm that has been a long time coming. So many that are deserving will not be in this first group but those that will be enshrined are at the top of the mountain.
It will be extremely difficult not to have this man in the first Hall of Fame Class. He is considered by many to be one of, if not the best Stock Car racing driver ever. Born in Whitney South Carolina, this Spartanburg native's accomplishment's in racing kinda sneak up on you. His fellow competitors had another way to put it, he is The Silver Fox.
David Pearson's winning ways started in 1961 with a surprise victory at Charlotte in the World 600. David would go on to win the Firecarcker 400 at Daytona and finished with a checkered flag at Atlanta in the Dixie 400.
After going winless for the 1962 and 1963 seasons it was time for Pearson to establish himself as one of the elite drivers in Grand National competition. Although known as a superspeedway specialist it was on the short tracks that David cut his teeth. This was no real surprise as the Nascar schedule was predominately filled with the shorter venue's.
From 1964 to 1969 Pearson won 54 races with 49 victories coming on the short tracks. David's consistency with a knack for finishing in the top five or winning brought him the championship in 1966 driving Cotton Owens Dodge. Teaming up with the powerful Holman and Moody stable early in 1967 would bring more success with two Grand National titles for the 1968 and 1969 season's. At the end of the decade David Pearson was the number one driver in Grand National racing. There was another cat from North Carolina that was taking a real good look.
In 1970 David cut back his schedule after several years of the brutal Nascar grind. Anyone who thought that Pearson was going to fade away were mistaken to say the least. The coming years would solidify Pearson's place in the annals of Nascar history.
It was a dream come true for any driver to hold the steering wheel of the famed Wood Brother's Mercury. For David Pearson and the Wood Brother's it was a destiny that would only add to the legends of both.
David's first race with the Wood Brother's was the Spring event at Darlington in 1972. Pearson sat on the pole and led 202 of 293 laps winning by over a lap with Richard Petty finishing second. David would win six races in 1972 including victories at Talladega, Michigan, Daytona and Dover. The competition quickly found out that Pearson and the 21 team were for real.
Pearson was unconscious in 1973 winning 11 times. During a 13 race stretch David finished no worse than 3rd with only a 2nd place finish at Charlotte preventing him from winning 10 races in a row. David's run from March through September included a 5 race winning streak and a 4 race winning streak. The other drivers looking for superspeedway success in 1973 had an eye full of the white and red Mercury and were happy with second place.
The legendary rivalry between David Pearson and Richard Petty is well documented and for many years they raced each other clean and hard. What is most memorable with these two masters is their classic duels on the superspeedways. The two Titan's hard fought finishes that we remember most on the big tracks actually took place over a period of about two years culminating with Pearson surviving a last lap crash to win the 1976 Daytona 500.
Pearson won 10 times in 1976 including Nascar's triple crown by winning at Daytona, the World 600 at Charlotte and the Southern 500 at Darlington . Petty was the brides maid in all three events but the famous finish at Daytona would be the last time that Pearson and Petty would fight it out for the checkered flag on the last lap.
David and Richard were respectful of eachother on the track and friends off of it. Petty once said that his trust of Pearson's driving ability was such that if David turned right going into a left turn, he would follow him. Anybody fortunate enough to see these two in action have memories of a lifetime.
David Pearson's impact on Nascar was to win and win big. His mastery of Darlington with 10 victories has yet to be equalled. Pearson could also drive Charlotte Motor Speedway blind folded. From 1973 through 1978 David won 11 consecutive pole positions at Charlotte with 4 career wins at the track.
Late in his career Pearson showed that he was stil one of the best by winning the 1979 Southern 500 at Darlington driving in relief for an injured Dale Earnhardt. David drove a four race stint that summer for Rod Osterland finishing in the top ten in every start with three top five's. To prove his mastery of Darlington once again Pearson won the Spring Darlington event in 1980 driving for Hoss Ellington.
Pearson was never much for words or the lime light, he spoke with his driving on the track. Buddy Baker once said that if David was on the lead lap near the end of a race it was over. It is hard to dispute Baker's remark as Pearson grabbed the checkered flag 105 times.
David never formally retired as a driver eventhough the record books show his last race was in 1986. In his words he said, "I didn't retire, I just quit drivin".
While he was driving David Pearson had the attention of every other on the track. Most of the time they did not notice he was there until it was too late.
The Silver Fox
=======To see some pic's of the Fox go directly to the "Old School" blog=========