winning at will
David Pearson put up incredible numbers
with the Wood Brothers, winning a
staggering 30 percent of his starts with
the team in a little more than seven full
seasons together from 1972 to early ’ 79.
In 1973, Pearson won 11 times in just
18 starts. But his best year might have
been ’ 76, when he had 10 victories and
16 top-five finishes in 22 starts. Included
in those totals were triumphs in what
was then NASCAR’s Triple Crown: the
Daytona 500, the Coca-Cola 600 at
Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the
Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Pearson opened the ’ 76 season with a
victory on the old Riverside International
Raceway road course, then famously won
the Daytona 500 after crashing with
Richard Petty on the last lap. An oil-pump
failure knocked him out at Rockingham,
but then he won at Atlanta and Darlington.
All four victories came with the same
powerplant – a special Ford engine that had
been sent to Australia for custom machine
work to keep the bottom half intact.
Hard to fathom today, but Pearson and
the Wood Brothers won the Triple Crown
with the same engine and the same car
in each of the three crown jewel races.
They were that good then.
PEARSON’S GREATEST SEASON
Winning NASCAR’s Triple Crown made 1976 a standout. Seven other wins from 22 starts merely confirmed it.
David Pearson celebrates
his 10th and final win of the
1976 season, having lapped
the field in the Los Angeles
Times 500 at Ontario
Motor Speedway, Calif.
Side by side out of Turn 4 on the final lap of
the ’ 76 Daytona 500, David Pearson on the
high line, Richard Petty low, Petty’s Dodge
got slightly loose, then Pearson bobbled, too.
Suddenly both were spinning up into the
wall. “He went beneath me and his car broke
loose,” recalled Pearson. “I got into the wall
and came off and hit him.” But Pearson
dipped his clutch, kept his motor running
and crawled over the line for the win.
“It didn’t matter if it was Daytona, or
Michigan, or Charlotte, or Rockingham, or
Dover,” says Wood Brothers co-owner Len
Wood. “And road courses, Riverside, he
won there, too. He could go anywhere.”
Not only could Pearson win, he expected
to win every time he strapped into the
cockpit of the Wood Brothers No. 21.
“He had a level of confidence that was
just there,” says Eddie Wood. “But it
wasn’t arrogance. You didn’t question it.”