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Three-time NASCAR champ David Pearson dies at 83

From staff and wire reports • Nov 12, 2018 at 10:08 PM

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — David Pearson, a NASCAR pioneer and longtime rival of Richard Petty, died Monday. He was 83.

The Wood Brothers racing team made the announcement but didn’t immediately release details.

Pearson was a three-time Cup Series champion, and his 105 career victories in NASCAR’s premier series — which came in just 574 starts — trail only Petty’s 200 on the all-time list.

“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. 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.”

Born just outside of Spartanburg, Pearson made his NASCAR debut in 1960 and he, Petty, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough raced all over the country as the cornerstone during NASCAR’s period of growth beyond a regional racing series.

Initially nicknamed “The Fox” for his calculated attack on the racetrack, the moniker evolved into “The Silver Fox” as Pearson aged. His career paralleled Petty’s and the two combined for 63 finishes in which the two were first and second to each other.

Following his rookie of the year-winning season in 1960, Pearson earned his first career victory in 1961. He won the first of his Cup championships in 1966 and captured back-to-back series titles in 1968-69.

Pearson was most identified with the legendary Wood Brothers despite never winning a championship in their Ford and Mercury cars. Between 1972 and 1979, Pearson and the Virginia-based Woods won 43 times, including the 1976 Daytona 500, a race that saw Pearson limp to the finish after colliding with rival Petty coming down to take the checkered flag.

Pearson scored five of his 105 career wins at Bristol Motor Speedway. His first at BMS came in the No. 6 Cotton Owens-owned Dodge and the last four in the No. 17 Holman-Moody Ford. His overall record included eight top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 20 Bristol starts, the last a seventh-place showing in the No. 2 Rod Osterlund-owned Chevrolet as a relief driver for the injured Dale Earnhardt.

Pearson, inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, won 10 times — including three Southern 500s — at Darlington Raceway, a 1.366-mile, egg-shaped track that ushered in NASCAR’s paved, superspeedway era in 1950.

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