SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — David Pearson, a NASCAR pioneer and longtime rival of Richard Petty, has died. He was 83.
Pearson died Monday, The Wood Brothers racing team said, but details were not immediately available.
Winston Kelley, the Executive Director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, issued the following statement on Pearson’s passing:
“On behalf of everyone at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, we offer our most sincere condolences to Ricky, Larry, Eddie and the entire Pearson family. A member of the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011, David was indisputably one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history—and one of the greatest in all forms of motorsports of 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 and when and how hard to push his equipment at just the right time. The epic battles between David and his rival, good friend and fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty, were key factors in the growth of NASCAR. Their rivalry grew our sport’s following through the 1960s and 1970s and to this day they are the two winningest drivers in NASCAR premier series history. Richard has always acknowledged that David was his toughest competitor on the track. Through their intense and epic battles, they maintained immense respect for one another during their driver days and beyond. David made an indelible mark on NASCAR history, and it is because of competitors like him that NASCAR is what it is today. We are forever indebted to David and are proud to help ensure his incredible legacy will forever be remembered.”
Pearson was a three-time Cup champion and his 105 career victories trail only Petty’s 200 on NASCAR’s all-time list.
Born just outside of Spartanburg, Pearson made his NASCAR debut in 1960 and along with Petty, Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough, they raced all over the country as the cornerstone during NASCAR’s period of slow growth beyond a regional racing series. Pearson was inducted into the second class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
Initially nicknamed ”The Fox” for his calculated attack on the race track, 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 finished first and second to each other.