NASCAR lost a legend Monday as David “The Silver Fox” Pearson died at the age of 83.
Pearson won three championships in NASCAR’s premier series and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.
“David Pearson’s 105 NASCAR premier series victories and his classic rivalry in the 1960s and ’70s with Richard Petty helped set the stage for NASCAR’s transformation into a mainstream sport with national appeal,” NASCAR CEO Jim France said in a statement. “When he retired, he had three championships — and millions of fans. Richard Petty called him the greatest driver he ever raced against. We were lucky to be able to call him one of our champions. The man they called the ‘Silver Fox’ was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence.
“On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of David Pearson, a true giant of our sport.”
The NASCAR world served an outpouring of reaction after Pearson's death.
Pearson’s most dominant season came in 1966 when he won 15 of 42 races in the Grand National Series (the name of NASCAR’s premier series at the time) and captured his first of three series championships. He and rival Petty, who introduced Pearson during his Hall of Fame induction, finished 1-2 in 63 races with Pearson winning 33.
“I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was,” Petty said in a statement after Pearson’s death was announced. “The answer has always been David Pearson. David and I raced together throughout our careers and 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."
The cause of Pearson’s death has not been revealed. He is survived by three sons, Larry, Ricky and Eddie.