Three-time champion, NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson, dies at 83

David Pearson, a three-time NASCAR Cup champion and winner of 105 races in NASCAR's premier series, died Monday. He was 83. 

The Wood Brothers Racing team announced his death, but details were not immediately available.

Pearson advanced from the short tracks of the Carolinas to the fastest superspeedways of NASCAR and was one of the sport's biggest names in the 1960s and 1970s. His Cup win total is second only to Richard Petty, and he won the Cup championship in every season in which he raced for it (1966, '68 and '69).

Pearson is survived by three sons, Larry, Ricky and Eddie, all of whom have been involved in NASCAR racing. His wife, Helen Ray, died in 1991.

"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,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France. “When he retired, he had three championships — and millions of fans. 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."

In the 1960s, Pearson and his three main competitors — Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Petty — were largely responsible for beginning the process that grew NASCAR from a mostly Southeastern sport into a national phenomenon. Their battles ignited fan interest and partisanship and attracted the early interest of television.

FROM THE ARCHIVE: Pearson's legend still dazzles racing community

The Pearson-Petty rivalry was electric. They finished one-two in Cup races 63 times, with Pearson winning 33 of those challenges.

Pearson and Petty were the stars of perhaps the greatest finish in NASCAR history — the 1976 Daytona 500. They were racing for the victory on the final lap when their cars touched in turn four, contact that sent both crashing into the outside wall. Both cars came to a stop on the infield grass, but Pearson depressed the clutch in his Mercury during the wreck, keeping the engine running. He chugged across the finish line at about 30 mph to win the race.

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