David Pearson: “I’m just a plain ol’ country boy, what you want to call it.”
David Pearson, widely respected as one of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR, died on Monday. The cause of death is still largely unknown.
In December 2014, the family announced that Pearson had suffered a stroke.
Pearson was is a three time NASCAR Grand National champion. To this day, he sits toward the top of the all-time NASCAR wins chart with 105 race victories. That’s second to only Richard Petty who collected 200 wins.
“He pushed me just as much as I pushed him on the track. We both became better for it,” Richard Petty commented on the passing of David Pearson.
The amazing part about those stats is that Pearson never run a full-season of NASCAR competition, even in the years he claimed the title. He ran 574 NASCAR Cup Series races, more than half the number accumulated by Petty’s 1,184 starts.
David Pearson on Richard Petty during his NASCAR Hall of fame induction speech:
“I want to thank Richard Pretty too,” Pearson said from the podium. “He’s probably the one that made me win as many as I did. I’d run hard because he’d make me run hard.”
“Sometimes, he’d make a mistake and I’d pass him. Of course, I didn’t ever make no mistakes. I always excused him for having big engines when he passed me.”
“I’ve had more fun running with him than anybody I’ve ever run with.”
Pearson was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. Richard Petty was the one to present the award. At the end of his speech he noted the France family, including the current CEO Jim France.
“David Pearson’s 105 NASCAR premier series victories and his classic rivalry in the 1960s and ’70s with Richard Petty helped set the stage for NASCAR’s transformation into a mainstream sport with national appeal,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement.
“When he retired, he had three championships — and millions of fans. Richard Petty called him the greatest driver he ever raced against. We were lucky to be able to call him one of our champions. The man they called the ‘Silver Fox’ was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence.
“On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of David Pearson, a true giant of our sport.”
NASCAR community reacts to the death of David Pearson
Ricky Stenhouse Jr: “RIP David Pearson when i drove for the Wood Brothers the stories they talked about with David and what they accomplished together were amazing to listen to. Obviously one of the best ever!!
Darrell Waltrip: “I am so sad to hear about my hero and the guy I consider to be the greatest stock car driver of “all time” David Pearson passed away today, there was no one like the “Silver Fox”! RIP my dear old friend!”
Larry McReynolds: “I just learned of the passing of The Great David Pearson! You have no idea just how good of a driver he was and I feel so fortunate that I was able to work with him in 1983 & 1984! May He Rest In Peace!”
Brad Keselowski: “I’d have to say if there was one driver who inspired me the most on the race track it was you. Always gritty, witty and in position at the end when it counted.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr: “David Pearson was one of the all time greats. Anyone who raced him will tell you he was the best. The Silver Fox lived up to his persona on and off the track. What a badass. RIP”
Chip Ganassi: “RIP David Pearson. I spent a few Sunday’s in Pittsburgh as a child watching him in the Wood Brothers #21 Ford won
Jeff Burton: “David Pearson was truly an icon. His driving ability and personality helped shape the sport. One of the best ever.”
Kyle Petty: Tonight my heart is sad. I was blessed to watch and race with David Pearson and in my childhood memories of race tracks, David is there.”
“The Man you had to beat, that Beautiful 21 Wood Bros Mercury. He was what a “Racecar Driver” was.. Steve McQueen Cool…one of the BEST EVER!”
Kerry Tharp (Darlington Raceway president): “Darlington Raceway expresses its deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of David Pearson. His record 10 wins at Darlington Raceway put him in a league of his own.”
“His fierce competitiveness and passion for the sport endeared him to the NASCAR faithful. His Hall of Fame career will go down as one of the most prolific in the history of the sports.”
“A native South Carolinian, he was a wonderful ambassador for our sport and for the Palmetto State. He will be missed and will always be remembered.”