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.
Unbelievably sad day today after hearing of the passing of (one of) THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST #nascar drivers. We wouldn’t be here today without him and we’re thinking of the entire David Pearson family tonight.
— Wood Brothers Racing (@woodbrothers21) November 13, 2018
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.
Our sincerest condolences go out to the Pearson family with the news of the passing of Class of 2011 NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson. pic.twitter.com/3PoR3DFuon
— NASCAR Hall of Fame (@NASCARHall) November 13, 2018
NASCAR Remembers the Silver Fox
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 pic.twitter.com/LGGJ7ZIje9
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) November 13, 2018
— Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) November 13, 2018
Such sad news that David Pearson past away today. Got a chance to meet David a few times and share some good stories and laughs. May he RIP as our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones! pic.twitter.com/Hpts8LIrtL
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) November 13, 2018
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!
— Darrell Waltrip (@AllWaltrip) November 13, 2018
RIP David Pearson.
I’d have to say if their 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.
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 13, 2018
RIP David Pearson when i drove for the @woodbrothers21 the stories they talked about with David and what they accomplished together were amazing to listen to. Obviously one of the best ever!! 🙏🏼
— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (@StenhouseJr) November 13, 2018
Sad to hear about David Pearson passing away today. One of the best. Prayers for the Pearson family🙏🏻
— Bobby Labonte (@Bobby_Labonte) November 13, 2018
David Pearson was truly an icon. His driving ability and personality helped shape the sport. One of the best ever.
— Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton) November 13, 2018
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!
— Kyle Petty (@kylepetty) November 13, 2018
Just seeing the news😞 may the Silver Fox, David Pearson rest in peace! One of the greats to ever drive will be missed!
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) November 13, 2018
David Pearson made his lone #NASCAR Grand National Series start at The Glen in 1964, where he finished 6th.
The three-time champion, who passed away on Monday, won 105 races in 574 career starts (2nd all-time). pic.twitter.com/FVLt37JGuO
— Watkins Glen Int'l PR (@WGIPR) November 13, 2018
The greatest. Race in peace, Silver Fox.
Your impact on the motorsports world, the people you loved, and those who loved you, is too great to be measured. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.
Our hearts are with all of David Pearson’s family and friends. pic.twitter.com/3NOKmachoF
— Talladega Superspeedway (@TalladegaSuperS) November 13, 2018
Very sad to learn of the passing tonight of NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson. When “The Silver Fox” ran for the championship, he generally won it. His tenure with the Wood Brothers was one of the most successful in the history of our sport. #RestInPeace. pic.twitter.com/vbbJE8hZGD
— Dave Moody (@DGodfatherMoody) November 13, 2018
Zach Gillispie contributed to this report.