Although the team never ran a full
schedule, when they did show up they
posted phenomenal numbers, Pearson
winning 43 times in 143 starts with the
Woods from 1972-’ 79.
Included in those numbers is the most
famous NASCAR race of all time, the
1976 Daytona 500, which saw Pearson
win after he and Petty crashed coming to
the checkered flag. As he rolled through
the infield, Pearson keyed his radio and
famously said, “The bitch hit me.” But he
kept going to take an iconic victory on
stock car racing’s biggest stage.
“David just eased up through the grass,
didn’t spin his tires and came across the
finish line,” recalls Leonard Wood.
Despite all the success, it was a tiny
“David just eased up
operation: Leonard and brother Glen did
the mechanical work, with Glen’s
then-teenage sons, Eddie and Len, pitching
in, plus maybe one full-time helper and a
part-timer. That was it, with Leonard and
Glen’s other brothers doing pit stops on
the weekend. Still, it worked like magic.
“I think Leonard knew what I wanted in
a racecar,” says Pearson. “He knew what
I thought about him, as far as that goes.
Whenever we went to a race track, by the
time we left there, he knew exactly what
we had. So when we went back to that
same track, I didn’t worry about the car or
anything else; as long as I ran good enough
and did my part, I knew it would be close.”
Adds Eddie: “Leonard had good race
cars, good power, and David knew how to
use it and not abuse it. He had a real
knack for not getting in accidents, too.
He’d say on the radio, ‘They’re getting
ready to wreck up here.’ He would just
back up a safe distance. It wouldn’t be but
two or three laps later and they’d be
crashing. He could see around the corner,
see what was fixing to happen. It was like
he had a sixth sense for danger.”
And in terms of feel, Pearson had few
equals. “He had such a great sense of
how to get into a corner and how to get
through the grass, didn’t
spin his tires and came
across the finish line”
(BELOW) With Pearson running mostly part seasons, his
rivalry with Richard Petty was about wins, not championships.
Head to head, Pearson came out on top. Pearson won his first
championship with Cotton Owens in 1966 (BELOW), then added
two more for Ford heavyweight Holman-Moody in 1968-’ 69.