Known as "The Silver Fox" for his cunning and skill on the track, the former Wood Brothers Racing driver from Spartanburg, South Carolina set the gold standard for professional stock car racing in the late '60s and throughout the '70s. As fortune would have it, this also happened to be right around the time when NASCAR was gaining national appeal and coming into its own as a mainstream sport.
Racking up 105 NASCAR Cup Series race wins over the course of his career, Pearson only sits behind Richard Petty on the all-time wins list. It makes sense, then, that the two NASCAR icons were embroiled in a classic rivalry during their racing days.
"I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was. The answer has always been David Pearson," Petty said shortly after Pearson's death. "David and I battled each other for wins, most of the time finishing first or second to each other. It wasn't a rivalry, but more mutual respect. David is a Hall of Fame driver who made me better. He pushed me just as much as I pushed him on the track. We both became better for it."
Kind words from "The King," no doubt, but no one explained Pearson's racing dominance quite as succinctly as the man himself.
"I never went into any race I didn't think I could win," Pearson famously said.
Ahead of his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction in 2011, an official NASCAR statement lauded Pearson as "the model of NASCAR efficiency during his career. With little exaggeration, when Pearson showed up at a race track, he won."
Needless to say, David Pearson was one of the greatest drivers to step foot inside of a stock car, and he will be deeply missed. May he rest in peace.