They called him the Silver Fox- cool, daring and sly. Racing in the shadows of Richard Petty, David Pearson was still accomplished enough to earn a spot alongside “The King,” “The Intimidator,” and “The Wonder Boy” as one of the all-time greats. Among his favorite haunts was Michigan International Speedway, Pearson’s personal playground in the 1970s.
In a stretch that ran from 1972 through 1978, “The Silver Fox” won eight out of a twelve possible races, including five out of six between ’72 and ’76. It was a magical combination of Pearson, the Wood Bros. and Mercury. He wasn’t “lucking up” either. In his career, the South Carolinian also earned ten poles. Overall, Pearson ran 29 NASCAR Cup races at MIS, and he finished in the top ten twenty(!) times. Can you say “own?”
Pearson said it was the best speedway at which he had ever run “It was big enough that you could draft and wide enough that if you got in trouble you could correct it before you hit the wall.” In his dramatic 1978 victory, the Silver Fox passed a young hotshot named Darrell Waltrip to take the checkered flag. That race featured some 35 lead changes, but Pearson got the one that mattered.
Exploits such as this were what got him the “Silver Fox” nickname. Pearson would just kind of hang around, let the newbies use up their equipment, and at the end, that sly, Silver Fox would show off that higher gear he had saved up for the end. Check this out: so cool was Pearson behind the wheel that they ran tests on him while he raced, and his blood pressure was actually LOWER.
You’ve heard me say it before, and I’ll say now; for my money, David Pearson is the best of all time. Don’t forget he only ran full time a handful of seasons in an era where the risks were greater and the rewards were not. In that short period where Pearson raced full time, he won three championships. The 63 races in which Pearson and Petty finished some combination of first and second were the stuff of legend. What the Silver Fox accomplished at Michigan is just one testament to his greatness.