David Pearson’s career in photos
By Zack Albert | Wednesday, June 19, 2019
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David Pearson ranks among stock-car racing's all-time greatest drivers, with his 105 victories second only to Richard Petty's 200 on the NASCAR premier series' all-time list. The 'Silver Fox' -- so named for his sly on-track persona and his premature gray hair -- enjoyed a brilliant career to cement his place in the sport's history. He's our pick for the best driver of the No. 21 in the Driver by Number project.
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Shortly after his debut season in 1960, Pearson connected with master mechanic and crew chief Ray Fox the following year. Pearson netted three victories in their first season together, including a dramatic win in the second-ever World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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Pearson paired with another NASCAR Hall of Famer in the years to come, finding success with fellow South Carolinian Cotton Owens. Their reach wasn't limited to NASCAR's circuits: when Chrysler withdrew from the premier series in the summer of 1965, Pearson and Owens took their Dodge to the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado.
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Pearson and Owens had one of their most prolific seasons together in 1966. Pearson won 15 times and posted 33 top-10 finishes in 42 starts, rolling to his first series championship in the No. 6 Dodge.
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Pearson -- here leading A.J. Foyt in the American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham -- switched from Owens' Dodge to the Holman-Moody No. 17 Ford midway through the 1967 season. He ran just 22 of the 49 races and finished seventh in the final driver standings.
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The teamwork with Holman-Moody bore fruit in the colorful No. 17 Ford, pictured here in 1969 at Daytona International Speedway. Pearson and the Charlotte-based team combined for 27 wins in the 1968 and 1969 seasons, claiming championships each year.
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Pearson forged one of the most prodigious partnerships in NASCAR history for the 1972 season, joining Wood Brothers Racing. The team never competed in a full season and produced no championships together, but registered 43 wins over the next seven seasons, including this triumph -- one of many together at Darlington Raceway.
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David Pearson celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 1974 American 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway (Rockingham), a track where he won five times during his career.
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David Pearson hoists the checkered flag and the trophy in Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway after claiming his third straight Firecracker 400 triumph.
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Pearson will be etched deeper into NASCAR lore by his lone Daytona 500 win in 1976. After a final-turn crash with Richard Petty in a last-lap contest for the lead, Pearson limped his battered No. 21 entry across the line just ahead of Petty's No. 43 in a Great American Race stunner.
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Pearson relished the benefit of a speedy Wood Brothers pit crew through the 1970s. Here, fellow Hall of Famer Leonard Wood clears the air hose with a flourish during a 1976 break for service at Talladega Superspeedway.
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Pearson enjoyed some of his biggest moments in his home state at historic Darlington Raceway. He added the 1976 Southern 500 to his list of accomplishments at his home track, where he won a series-record 10 times in his career.
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Pearson's driving days with the Wood Brothers ended abruptly in 1979 at Darlington. Leonard Wood told his driver 'Whoa! Whoa!' over the radio after the team changed right-side tires, but Pearson heard, 'Go! Go!' -- not knowing that the team had loosened the left-side lug nuts for a four-tire stop. Pearson drove away and the No. 21 scraped to a halt at the end of pit road. The two sides split the following week.
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Pearson landed with car owner Hoss Ellington for a nine-race stint in 1980, scoring his final premier-series win in their first race together, at Darlington.
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Pearson entered no more than 12 races a year for the rest of his career. He made the final two starts of his career in 1986 as an owner/driver in a Chattanooga Chew-sponsored No. 21 Chevrolet.
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(From left) David Pearson, Leonard Wood and Carl Edwards united at Darlington Raceway in April 2008, with Pearson getting behind the wheel of the No. 21 to check out the track's new pavement.
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Even in retirement, Pearson remained a popular figure in the garage. He shared a laugh with then-teammates Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman at Darlington in 2010.
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David Pearson addressed the Charlotte Convention Center crowd in May 2011 to accept his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Pearson was the top vote-getter among the NASCAR shrine's second class of five honorees.