Woods Make This A Year To Remember Pearson
By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
Among the things that NASCAR’s long time audience can look forward to in the 2011 season is having David Pearson back in the limelight.
Pearson is being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this year, and the Wood Brothers, whosecar he once drove, are honoring his induction by dedicating their season to him.
The Woods and Pearson both were successful working with other teams and drivers, but they were at their best together – as their 43 Cup wins show.
The Woods invited Pearson to the NASCAR media tour last week to surprise him with the news that they were honoring him. Their No. 21 Ford, driven by rookie Trevor Bayne, will sport a paint scheme similar to the red and white that the Woods’ Mercury had in its heyday in the 70s. And there’s a special Pearson decal on the car.
Pearson, 76, was at his best during his media tour appearance. He seemed genuinely grateful to the Woods for their gesture.
“It is a big year,” he said. “I’m proud of it, and I appreciate it.”
Pearson seemed especially pleased to be back in the company of the Woods as well as long-time non-family crew members like Kenny Martin. If there ever were any hard feelings over their awkward parting back in 1979, they weren’t apparent.
Pearson and Leonard Wood were acting like best friends, maybe even like brothers. They’d get pulled
in separate directions at times, then quickly gravitate back together. Wood even presented Pearson with a radio-controlled model of the old Mercury they once used to annihilate the competition. Wood built the model himself and had a special plaque made to go with it.
It was a day marked by wide smiles all around.
But, another side of Pearson was evident as well. The outspoken side of him soon became apparent as reporters gathered around sought his opinion about the current state of NASCAR racing.
He raised the most eyebrows with his assessment of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s slump.
“If I was him and had as much money as he had, I’d retire,” Pearson said with a sly grin on his face, knowing his remark would draw laughter from the gaggle of reporters surrounding him. “He don’t need to be running. Of course, he’s done good and everything, and he’s made a good living at it. He’s got plenty of money. There ain’t no need to keep a’ going.”
Pearson said he told Earnhardt’s father the same thing.
“I told his dad that before he got killed,” Pearson said. “He said he had too many toys. Them toys don’t mean really that much.”
Pressed on the Junior question, Pearson said he believes that Earnhardt doesn’t take the chances on
the track that he once did.
“He’s getting smarter,” Pearson said.
Pearson also weighed in on the Chase and its formula for resetting the points for the final 10 races of the season.
“Running down ‘til last 10 or 12 races and starting over again, that’s a bunch of bull,” he said.
Pearson also didn’t hesitate to point out to his questioners just how good he was in his day.
Asked about whether he’d have liked to have more championships, he responded:
“I never did run for the championship but three times, and I won it all three times,” he said. “I would have loved to run for the championship with the Woods. I feel like we could have won it.”
And he said he’s not too impressed with the way the Hall of Fame selection process seems to be overlooking some of the pioneers like car owner Raymond Parks.
“(The Wood Brothers) ought to have been in there before I was, not only them, but the guys that really started the thing,” he said. “I’ve always said that.”
Pearson got several questions about his success at Darlington, where he leads all drivers with 10 Cup
“I had good success about everywhere I went,” he said. “How many did I win at Michigan?”
For the record, the answer is nine, more than any other Cup driver.
And his record in the Trans Am Series, driving for Bud Moore.
“Bud said I ran five times, won four and ran second once,” Pearson said.
The Silver Fox acknowledged that his opinions aren’t always what NASCAR officials want to hear and that he’d have had a tough time being a racer today, one who has to hold his tongue at times to keep from upsetting a sponsor.
“A lot of times I say things I shouldn’t,” He said. “Why shouldn’t I? I believe it.”
Now there’s something to look forward to as Daytona rolls around.
– Rick Minter can be reached at email@example.com Comments