NASCAR Legend David Pearson: The Silver Fox
The Darlington Raceway in upstate South Carolina is considered one of NASCAR’s most challenging tracks. It’s shaped like an egg and has earned the moniker ‘the track too tough to tame’. That applied to everyone except David Pearson, who won 10 races and took 12 poles at Darlington. These records will likely never be challenged, let alone broken. Pearson’s ability to get around the track was almost instinctive. In fact, he made it look easy.
David Pearson was born on December 22, 1934 in Whitney, SC”a textile town near Spartanburg. Like most of the locals, his parents worked in the local cotton mill and did their best to provide. David quit school after the 10th grade and went to work in the mill. It wasnt long, however, before his love of cars and racing made him leave the mill life behind. He bought a car and began racing at short tracks in the upstate. He ran his first race on 9/19/52 in Woodruff South Carolina. Within a few years, he won his first championship at the Greenville”Pickens Speedway in 1959.
Pearson never sought out stock car racing immortality, but some of his friends had other ideas. They began raising money to buy a car to race in the NASCAR Grand National series (the forerunner to today’s Sprint Cup). With a patchwork of financial backing, David began racing a limited schedule on the Grand National circuit and was named the 1960 rookie of the year. In 1961,he attracted sponsors and started to race a full time schedule. Not long after, he was considered among the best in the sport winning Grand National titles in 1966, 1968 and 1969.
The 1970s saw Pearson cut back his schedule somewhat, focusing on superspeedways. In 1972, he started driving for the Wood Brothers in the #21 car that he was to make a legend. In 1973, he won 11 races in 18 starts”an incredible feat even by todays standards. Through the end of the 1970s, Pearson won 43 races. In addition to his mastery of Darlingon, he posted remarkable numbers all over the circuit. He is one of two men to have won more than 100 races, and his 105 is second only to The King Richard Pettys 200 wins. Hes also second on career poles (113) to Petty. Head to head, however, he has a slight edge over NASCARs legendary King: in races where he and Petty finished 1-2, Pearson won 33 to Pettys 30. His 11 consecutive poles at Charlotte is a feat that will likely never be matched. Another record that may never be broken is his 18.29% winning percentage, as well as his record of starting from the pole in 20% of the races he ran.
Pearson is alive and well and still lives in Spartanburg, SC. In March 2000, SC Highway 221 through Spartanburg County was renamed David Pearson Boulevard in his honor. He still gets out on the Darlington track a few times a year–impressive for anyone, but even more so for a 75 year old man. And he’s still got the sterling silver hair which gave him his nickname of ‘The Silver Fox’.