NASCAR Legend David Pearson Dies at 83

NASCAR legend David Pearson has died at the age of 83. The news was confirmed Monday night (Nov. 12) by the Wood Brothers, the team the Hall of Famer drove for most of his career.

Pearson, better known in the sport as the “Silver Fox,” won 105 career races in only 574 starts at NASCAR’s top level. That leaves him second on the all-time wins list, trailing only “King” Richard Petty.  Petty and Pearson dominated the sport in the 1960s and 1970s, creating one of the sport’s best rivalries.

Pearson has three championships on his resume, all from the 1960s to go along with one Daytona 500, three Southern 500 and three World 600 trophies.  He accomplished all that without running a full schedule even once during his racing career. But despite the scaled-back approach, his overall performance is one of the greatest the sport has ever seen. In fact, despite running just 18 races in 1973 Pearson won 11 of them, considered one of the finest seasons in NASCAR’s modern era.

The greatest win of Pearson’s career came in the 1976 Daytona 500. That’s when he and Petty dueled it out at the end of the race as both crashed coming off Turn 4 and stalled on the frontstretch grass.  Pearson got away, able to refire his engine before Petty did to capture his only Daytona 500.

NASCAR Chairman and interim CEO Jim France issued a statement regarding Pearson’s passing, “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. ”

“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.”

Back in 2011, Pearson was inducted into the second ever class in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive director Winston Kelly issued a statement on Pearson’s passing:

“David was indisputably one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history – and one of the greatest in all forms of motorsports or 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 at just the right time.”

“We are for forever indebted to David and are proud to help ensure his incredible legacy will be forever remembered,” Kelly added.

NASCAR Remembers the Silver Fox

Zach Gillispie contributed to this report.

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About Brandon Hauff

Brandon Hauff
Brandon is a 22-year-old from NY and has been a passionate follower of motorsports for 14 years now. He recently graduated from Molloy College on Long Island with a BA in Communications. Working within NASCAR has been a dream for Brandon for a while, and he hopes to be able to live out the dream in the very near future.

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    Pearson was humble to the end. RIP.

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    Godspeed to the Darlington master.

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    Interesting to me that this article, and , indicate that Pearson never ran a full season. By comparison, several articles on Pearson’s death indicate he ran full seasons when he won each of his three championships (writers are entitled to their own opinions, but writers are not entitled to their own facts; unless there is something goofy about Pearson’s race history, I am not sure why there are differences in reporting).
    Regardless, Pearson was a great driver. It is a shame there was not much television or permanent video coverage of races during his era.
    My condolences to David’s family, friends, and fans.

    • Avatar

      Part of the discrepancy in facts might be due to Wikipedia:

      ” He won three championships (1966, 1968, and 1969) and every year he was active he ran the full schedule in NASCAR’s Grand National Series (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series).[1] ”

      Reference 1 mentioned in the Wikipedia quote is:
      Fleischman, Bill; Pearce, Al (1999). The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide (1998–99). Farmington Hills, Michigan: Visible Ink Press. p. 197. ISBN 1-57859-111-2.

      I will let someone more knowledgeable than I am to settle why the internet can not agree on whether or not Pearson ever ran a full season of cup-level races (I would not be surprised if the roots of the discrepancy is that prior to Winston becoming the series sponsor, Nascar occasionally had competing cup-level races on the same day but at different tracks, or if not that, had similar scheduling oddities that precluded one from participating in every race; Richard Petty was in every cup-level race in 1968, otherwise, he did not race in every cup-level race until 1972, according to , yet won cup-level championships in 1964, 1967, and 1971 per ).

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        I believe the racing reference site which shows that Pearson never ran all the races in a season. “Wikipedia” and “Unauthorized” should call into question the accuracy of the information.