smoke out the window at Baker and pulled
away to victory by leading the final 12
laps. “The Silver Fox” had struck again...
It was vintage Pearson – messing with
another driver in the heat of battle and,
more importantly, waiting until the right
time in the race to strike. Leonard Wood,
Eddie’s uncle and Pearson’s chief mechanic
during the team’s glory years, saw it often.
“He always made the comment, ‘If you
run as hard as you can go all day, you’re
going to make a mistake,’” recalls Leonard.
“Back in those days, the cars would fall out
a lot more, so he would bide his time and
wait until about half distance, when a lot
of the cars had already fallen out. That’s
when he’d start going to the front – if he
wasn’t already in front, that is.”
And Pearson went to the front an
awful lot in a career that saw him win
105 NASCAR premier series races and
three championships in just 574 starts.
Pearson’s 18. 3 percent win average is
better than that of chief rival Richard
Petty, whose 200 victories in 1,184
starts gave him a 16. 9 win percentage.
As smart and successful as Pearson
was on the track, he never was wowed by
the trappings of stardom and fame like so
t was April 1976 and Buddy Baker’s
Ford was dominating at Darlington
Raceway, leading 205 of 367 laps in the
Rebel 500. But as the laps wound down,
car owner Bud Moore was on the radio,
urgently warning Baker that David
Pearson was in his rearview mirror and
closing fast in his all-conquering Wood
Brothers Racing No. 21 Mercury.
“He’d been telling Buddy all along,
‘He’s coming, he’s coming,’” says Wood
Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood about the
messages Moore was sending his driver.
“And Buddy was, ‘Naw, I think I’ve got
him. I’m OK today. I got it covered.’”
Baker, unfortunately, was guilty of a
little bit of irrational exuberance. Not
only did Pearson catch Baker on the
frontstretch on Lap 356, but as he pulled
alongside him, Pearson lit a cigarette, blew
With 43 wins from 143 starts for David Pearson and the Wood
Brothers in a little over seven years together, it remains NASCAR’s
most potent combination. Pearson puts it down to the Woods
understanding what he wanted in a car, and he taking care of the rest.
(LEFT) Another race,
his win in the 1968
at Bristol Motor
Speedway. The ’ 68
season was one of
the few times he ran
a near-full schedule.
His 16 victories from
48 starts earned him
the second of his