Pearson finds success with Masoni ride

Sunday, May 28, 1961 – Future Hall of Fame driver David Pearson scores his first win in NASCAR’s premier series when he captured the World 600 – while driving on three tires and a rim. Pearson’s No. 3 Pontiac, owned by Daytona Beach, Fla.-businessman John Masoni, had a three-lap lead on Fireball Roberts when the right-rear tire trouble surfaced. He nursed the car around the 1.5-mile track for the final lap and a half, with a shower of sparks coming off the rim.

Pearson, 26, had won Rookie of the Year honors the previous year, driving his own entry in 22 of 44 races. For ’61, he took the ride with Masoni and chief mechanic Ray Fox. The 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was one of three wins for Pearson and the team that season.

Richard Kagle of Green Belt, Md., lost his left leg when his No. 2 Ford was pierced by the guard rail during a crash. The metal severed his leg below the knee. Kagle, who was transported to a local hospital, was making his 25th start in the series.

Isaac finds trouble, Pearson nets win

Sunday May 7, 1972 – Davie Pearson managed to swing around trouble when it struck race leader Bobby Isaac and the result was a victory in the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway for the Wood Brothers Racing driver. Pearson was trailing Isaac with two laps remaining when the leader hit the wall after contact with the lapped entry of Jimmy Crawford.

Isaac, who still managed to finish second in spite of his skirmish with Crawford, had ignored a black flag from NASCAR due to an unattached gas cap as the final laps wound down. He was allowed to keep his runner-up finish but fined $1,500. NASCAR president Bill France Jr. said afterward that officials had the option of penalizing, disqualifying or suspending Isaac for the infraction. “It isn’t easy inspecting a car going 190 mph,” France told reporters.

Asked how the call could have differed had Isaac won the race instead of finishing second, NASCAR Vice President Lin Kuchler said, “I guess we’d still be meeting.”

Richard Petty finished fifth and earned a $10,000 bonus for leading the points standings after the season’s 11th event. Another $10,000 was split among the drivers second through fifth in the standings after the race.

Country music star and sometimes racer Marty Robbins finished 18th in the race to earn Rookie of the Race honors. However, officials stripped Robbins of his finish for an improperly installed carburetor, leaving him last in the 50-car field.

The race saw the debut of Darrell Waltrip in NASCAR’s premier series. Waltrip qualified 25th and finished 38th in the No. 95 Terminal Transport Mercury. It was the first of 809 career starts in the series for the three-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member.

A Pearson victory and a controversy

Sunday, April 29, 1973 – The Virginia 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway was your typical exciting short-track race, ending with David Pearson in victory lane following a lengthy late-race duel with Cale Yarborough. The pair battled for the top spot for more than 50 laps before Yarborough spun his No. 11 Chevrolet, leaving Pearson to sail away in his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. But it was a caution on lap 374 of the 500-lap race that left Yarborough and team manager Junior Johnson feeling robbed.

NASCAR officials threw the caution flag to allow an ambulance to exit the track and transport a heart attack victim to a local hospital. Pearson, two laps down earlier in the race, got back on the lead lap when the yellow appeared and after Yarborough had pitted under green moments earlier. Johnson said teams weren’t told the yellow was going to come out and the move “cost us that race.”

The victory was Pearson’s first at Martinsville, one of 11 victories in only 16 starts that season for the Spartanburg, S.C. native.

Yarborough, who led 314 laps, managed to finish second in spite of his late-race spin. Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and Cecil Gordon completed the top five.

NASCAR rules no gas cap, no problem

Sunday, April 25, 1971 – Richard Petty was flagged the winner, David Pearson filed the protest and career win No. 10 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Petty was put into question when he completed the final 18 laps of the 500-lap race with the gas cap on his ’71 Plymouth not secured.

Petty held a half-lap lead when he pitted for a splash of gas and returned to the track side-by-side with Pearson. He eventually pulled away and won the Virginia 500 by more than 1.5 seconds.

Ralph Moody, Pearson’s team owner, met with NASCAR officials as soon as the race ended to lodge a complaint. Len Kuchler, NASCAR competition director, said because Petty took only a small amount of fuel, none was spilling onto the track and the unsecured cap did not create a safety hazard.

Pearson filed an official protest and when it was disallowed by Kuchler, appealed to the NASCAR Racing Commission.

One week later, the Commission disallowed Pearson’s protest, declaring Petty the official race winner. Pearson’s $100 protest fee was returned.

Unofficially, the race was the last of three at the tiny half-mile oval to see only one caution flag wave during the course of an event. As of 2019, there has never been a caution-free premier series race on the .526-mile track.

Pearson’s final win comes at Darlington

Sunday, April 13, 1980 – No rust was evident for David Pearson as the Silver Fox from Spartanburg, S.C., made a triumphant return to NASCAR’s premier series, winning the CRC Chemicals Rebel 300 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was the three-time champion’s first start in the series since winning the Southern 500 Labor Day classic on the same track the previous year.

The victory was No. 105 for Pearson, driver of the No. 1 Hoss Ellington-owned Chevrolet, and was his last in NASCAR’s top series. He was the second driver to top 100 victories and currently remains second on the all-time win list behind Richard Petty (200 wins). He ended his racing career with a Darlington track record 10 victories.

The race was stopped after 258 of the 367 scheduled laps had been completed due to darkness. Earlier, the race had been delayed for 2 hr., 18 min., because of rain. Pearson led a race-high 99 circuits around the 1.366-mile track.

Pole winner Benny Parsons, Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip and Dick Brooks completed the top five.

Silver Fox to fill seat for departing Allison

Friday, March 28, 1980 – David Pearson, winner of 104 NASCAR premier series races and two championships, is named to replace Donnie Allison as driver of the No. 1 Hoss Ellington entry just five races into the season. The amicable split left Allison hoping to find a ride with a team competing full-time on the circuit. The Ellington organization was expected to compete in no more than a dozen races, a schedule Pearson finds attractive.

Pearson made nine starts with the Hawaiian Tropic-sponsored team in ’80. He won in his first start with the team, capturing the Rebel 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. It was his 105th and final win in NASCAR’s top series. He also finished second at Daytona that July and second when the series returned to Darlington for the annual Southern 500.

Allison drove for the Ellington organization from 1977 through ’80. He made just three starts in his final season with the team, finishing seventh (Daytona), fifth (Rockingham) and 26th (Atlanta). Four of his 10 career wins came while driving for the team.