David Pearson, Stock Cars, Class of 1993
No one has ever said it better than David Pearson, one of the greatest sports columnists of this country: "David Gene Pearson is either the best or second best stock car driver in the world. It's either he or Richard Petty".
Petty, in the March 1993 issue of Stock Car Racing Magazine, said, "Writers were asking me last year who was the best driver I ever raced against. I told them David Pearson. David and I ran more firsts and seconds than anybody else, and we raced together on dirt tracks, superspeedways, road courses, big tracks and little tracks. It didn't make any difference, you had to beat him every week."
In a NASCAR Winston Cup driving career spanning 1960-1986, Pearson accomplished everything possible. He won the national championship in three of the four years he ran for it, a record unlikely to be matched. Although his 105 wins are second to Petty's 200, his winning percentage of 18.29% is second to none among drivers who have completed in at least 240 races. He was on the pole in one of every five races he ran, another record unlikely to fall. Pearson started 574 races, ninth on the all-time list.
Pearson and Petty had the greatest, if not the longest, racing duel in motorsports history. From August 8, 1963, through June 12, 1977, they finished first and second to each other an amazing 63 times. Pearson won 33, Petty, 30. At the time of their last 1-2 finish, no other driver had as many as 63 wins.
Born in Whitney, South Carolina, Pearson knew at an early age he was going to be a race driver. He made his debut in a hobby car on September 19, 1953, at Woodruff, South Carolina. A fan club got him a Grand National car in 1960 and he was awarded with Rookie of the Year honors. Then in 1961 he was offered a factory Pontiac prepared by legendary mechanic Ray Fox. In his first outing he won the World 600 at Charlotte, North Carolina. He won two other superspeedway races that year and was dubbed "Little David the Giant Killer".
Before he quit driving, Pearson built a garage for what would become a stepping stone for his sons; Larry, the driver, Ricky, the crew chief, and Eddie, was a member of the team owned by his father. They won the Busch Grand National championship in 1986 and 1987. The family team moved to the Winston Cup circuit in 1989, but early in 1990 it was disbanded for lack of sponsorship. Although his sons are still active in the Busch Series, David has been inactive since March 18, 1990.