Snapshot: David Pearson

Saturday, May. 21, 2011

Born: Dec. 22, 1934, Whitney, S.C. (near Spartanburg).

Family: Wife Helen (passed away in 1991), sons Larry, Ricky and Eddie.

Career Highlights

Began racing his own "jalopy" cars at short tracks in the Spartanburg area in 1952. He moved up to NASCAR's premier Grand National Division in 1960 and was the circuit's rookie of the year with 10 top 10 finishes in 22 starts.

Scored his first big-time victory in the World 600 of 1961 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was a stunning upset, as Pearson had been hired by car owner Ray Fox to drive his Pontiac only days before the race.

Won titles in NASCAR's top series in 1966, '68 and '69, the only three years in a long career that he ran the full schedule. He took the first championship with team owner and Spartanburg friend Cotton Owens, the other two with Charlotte-based Holman-Moody.

Joined the Wood Brothers, Glen and Leonard, in 1972, forming a team that proved to be one of the strongest and most popular in NASCAR history. Running a limited schedule, Pearson and the Woods teamed for 43 victories, including the 1976 Daytona 500 in a memorable duel with Richard Petty. The team won six times at Darlington, three at Charlotte.

Retired after the 1986 season with 105 victories and 113 poles, including an incredible record 11 straight first-place starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, 1973-78.

Takes pride that all three sons followed him into motorsports. Larry won the 1986 driving title in what's now the Nationwide Series.


Retired Observer motorsports reporter and contributor Tom Higgins on David Pearson:

I First Saw Him: During our boyhoods just after World War II when he visited an uncle, a neighbor of my parents in little Burnsville, N.C. We did not become acquainted well at that time.

First Impression (At a race track): Fun-loving and very relaxed. Amazingly savvy in the car, seemingly having a sixth sense that warned well in advance that trouble was developing.

What People Might Not Know About Him: He often piloted his own aircraft - planes and helicopters - to races.

My Favorite Memory Of Him: Watching in near disbelief as he drove his badly damaged car to the checkered flag in the 1976 Daytona 500 at about 5 mph. He coolly had pushed in the clutch to keep the motor running after crashing with Richard Petty, then spinning to a stop, off the fourth turn during the final lap.

Most Memorable Quote: "Yeah, I know. I'm in it." - Calmly responding to a radioed warning about the last-lap crash at Daytona in '76.

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