While there are a number of challenging tracks on the NASCAR stock car racing circuit, few have earned the fearsome reputation of South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway. Known as ‘the track too tough to tame’, its shaped like an egg with a surface that shreds tires. Some of the best drivers–including NASCAR’s ‘King’ Richard Petty never mastered it. David Person, on the other hand, dominated at Darlington. He won 10 races and won 12 poles–both records that will likely never be broken. He actually made the ‘track too tough to tame’ look downright easy.
David Pearson was born on December 22, 1934 in Whitney, SC–a textile town near Spartanburg. Like most of the locals, his parents worked in the local cotton mill and did their best to provide. David quit school after the 10th grade and went to work in the mill. It wasnt long, however, before his love of cars and racing made him leave the mill life behind. He bought a car and began racing at short tracks in the upstate. He ran his first race on 9/19/52 in Woodruff South Carolina. Within a few years, he won his first championship at the Greenville/Pickens Speedway in’59.
Pearson never sought out stock car racing immortality, but some of his friends had other ideas. They began raising money to buy a car to race in the NASCAR Grand National series (the forerunner to today’s Sprint Cup). With a patchwork of financial backing, David began racing a limited schedule on the Grand National circuit and was named the’60 rookie of the year. In’61, he became the first driver in history to win on 3 of the 4 superspeedways in the same season (Charlotte, Atlanta, Daytona). This attracted sponsors, and before he knew it he was a top NASCAR driver winning Grand National titles in’66,’68 and’69.
In’72, he started driving for the Wood Brothers in the #21 car that he was to make a legend. In’73, he won 11 races in’ starts”an incredible feat even by today’s standards. He cut back his schedule in those years to focus on superpeedways. Through the end of the’70s, Pearson won 43 races. In addition to his mastery of Darlington, he posted remarkable numbers all over the circuit. He is one of two men to have won more than 100 races, and his 105 is second only to The King Richard Petty’s 200 wins. Hes also second on career poles (113) to Petty. Head to head, however, he has a slight edge over NASCARs legendary King: in races where he and Petty finished 1-2, Pearson won 33 to Petty’s 30. His 11 consecutive poles at Charlotte is a feat that will likely never be matched. Another record that may never be broken is his’.29% winning percentage, as well as his record of starting from the pole in 20% of the races he ran.
Pearson is alive and well and still lives in Spartanburg, SC. In March 2000, SC Highway 221 through Spartanburg County was renamed David Pearson Boulevard in his honor. He still gets out on the Darlington track a few times a year–impressive for anyone, but even more so for a 75 year old man. And he’s still got the sterling silver hair which gave him his nickname of ‘The Silver Fox’.
Ross Everett is a freelance sports writer and highly respected authority on football betting. His writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sports news and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and an emu. He is currently working on an autobiography of former energy secretary Donald Hodell.