With a career in racing from 1960 to 1986, David Pearson has achieved everything possible. Pearson was born in 1934, in Whitney, South Carolina and knew at a very young age that he would be racing cars. In September of 1953, he made his racing debut in a hobby car. In 1960, with a car from his fan club, he won the Grand National Rookie of the Year Award. Pontiac offered him a ride in 1961 in a factory car prepared by legendary mechanic Ray Fox. His first race was the World 600 at Charlotte. He took the checkered flag. He was named “Little David the Giant Killer” after 2 more wins at superspeedway races.
David Pearson’s career statistics are nothing short of amazing. With 574 starts he ranks ninth on the all time list. In 1966, 1968, and 1969 he won the Grand National Championship Title. In 1973 he had 11 victories and in 1976 he took the checkered flag ten times. His overall win record of 105 places his second only behind “The King”, Richard Petty whose career wins total 200. His winning percentage of 18.29% is number one for those drivers competing in at least 240 races.
Pearson is perhaps a legend not only for his driving stats but for his legendary rival with Richard Petty. Petty was quoted in the March 1993, Stock Car Racing Magazine as saying, “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 first and seconds than anybody else, and we raced together on dirt track, superspeedways, road courses, big and little tracks. It didn’t make any difference; you had to beat him every week.” The duo finished first and second 63 times from August 8, 1963 to June 12, 1977. Pearson took the flag 33 times with Petty bringing home the win 30. One of their most memorable duels took place at Daytona in 1976. Pearson had fallen back about a second behind Petty but made up the distance in the last three laps. While fighting for the lead in the backstretch Pearson and Petty got together sending Pearson into the wall and Petty into the grass about 100 feet short of the finish line. Pearson, who had managed to keep his car running, inched his way to the checkered flag at 20mph. For most fans, this ranks as one of the all time, if not the all time, finishes in history.
Along with 113 pole starts, he was also received the Most Popular Driver Award in both 1979 and 1980.
Before retiring from driving, Pearson secured his family’s place in racing by building his own garage. His son Larry would go on to be the driver while son Ricky was the crew chief. His son Eddie was also a member of the team owned by his father. In 1986 and 1987 the team won the Busch Grand National Championship. The team moved to the Winston Cup in 1989, but due to lack of sponsorship folded in early 1990. His sons are still active in the Busch Series