NASCAR legend David Pearson passed away at the age of 83, reports on Monday have confirmed.
Nicknamed the Silver Fox, Pearson established himself as one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers during the 1960s and 1970s. In the former, he made his name in Cotton Owens‘ #6 Dodge before moving to Holman-Moody‘s #17 Ford. Pearson won three NASCAR Grand National (now Monster Energy Cup) Series championships in 1966, 1968, and 1969 as he enjoyed a rivalry with seven-time champ Richard Petty; Pearson’s 105 Cup wins are the second most in Cup history behind Petty’s 200. He also recorded 301 top-five finishes, 366 top tens, and 113 poles in his 574-race Cup career.
“Pearson. Pearson could beat you on a short track, he could beat you on a superspeedway, he could beat you on a road course, he could beat you on a dirt track,” Petty stated in 2009. “It didn’t hurt as bad to lose to Pearson as it did to some of the others, because I knew how good he was.”
In the 1970s, Pearson became synonymous with Wood Brothers Racing‘s #21 Ford, which he drove from 1972 to 1979. With the team, he won forty-three races, including recording a third-place points finish in 1974. Two years later, he won his only Daytona 500.
“Unbelievably sad day today after hearing of the passing of (one of) THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST #nascar drivers,” the team’s Twitter account posted. “We wouldn’t be here today without him and we’re thinking of the entire David Pearson family tonight.”
Although Pearson’s final Cup win came at Darlington Raceway in 1980, he remained competitive throughout his part-time run in the 1980s, scoring various top tens. His last Cup start, the 1986 Champion Spark Plug 400 at Michigan International Speedway, ended with a tenth-place run.
In 1998, he was named to the list of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. He is also a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (Class of 1990) and the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Class of 2011).
Ford driver Brad Keselowski tweeted, “I’d have to say if their [sic] 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.”