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NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson dies at 83

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David Pearson, described by Richard Petty as the “greatest race car driver that I raced against,” died Monday. He was 83.

The Wood Brothers confirmed Pearson’s death, tweeting: “Unbelievably sad day today after hearing of the passing of (one of) THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST #nascar drivers. We wouldn’t be here today without him and we’re thinking of the entire David Pearson family tonight.”

The news led to numerous tributes from those in the industry, including current drivers.

MORE: Racing community reacts to David Pearson passing

Pearson, who drove for the Wood Brothers from 1972-79, was a three-time Cup champion who won 105 Cup races, which was second only to Petty’s 200. Pearson, who won 18.29 percent of his races, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011.

Leonard Wood of the Wood Brothers introduced Pearson at the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame ceremony by saying: “It is my great pleasure to introduce to you the greatest driver in the history of NASCAR, Mr. David Pearson.

Pearson, known as the Silver Fox, won 27 races and had 30-runner-up finishes in the 1968-69 seasons.

“I grew up with Bobby and Donnie (Allison) and all those guys but when it came to Steve McQueen cool that was Pearson, he was the coolest of them,” NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty said of Pearson. “The way he walked, the way he carried himself. Forget what he did on the race track, he was just cool. That’s the word beside him in the dictionary.”

Pearson rarely ran a full season in NASCAR’s premier series but when he did was tough to beat.

“When you talk about the number of races people win, he didn’t run nearly as many races as most of the others, his winning percentage was unbelievable,” NBC Sports analyst Dale Jarrett said. “I know he gets credit, but you talk to people who raced in his era and watched, they considered him if not the best one of the top two or three that ever did this.”

That’s what Kyle Petty remembers about Pearson.

Petty said during a stop on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride in Lake Charles, La., years ago, Pearson was on the ride with them.

“My dad just told a story about Harry (Gant) and my next question is who is the best driver you ever raced against,” Kyle Petty said. “My dad said I would have to say my dad, I would have to say Lee Petty but I’m going to have to say David Pearson. David Pearson is probably the greatest race car driver that I raced against and I admired what he did.

“And so I said, David, what’s your answer. (He said) I’d just about have to agree with Richard.”

During his 2011 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony speech, Pearson thanked Richard Petty. “I want to thank Richard Petty, too. He’s probably the one that made me win as many as I did. I’d run hard because he’d make me run hard. … I’ve had more fun running with him than anybody I’ve ever run with.”

Richard Petty and Pearson engaged in one of the sport’s greatest finishes in the 1976 Daytona 500 when they crashed coming to the checkered flag. Pearson prevailed for his only Daytona 500 triumph.

Richard Petty issued a statement Monday night:

“I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was. The answer has always been David Pearson. David and I raced together throughout our careers and battled each other for wins – most of the time finishing first or second to each other.

“It wasn’t a rivalry, but more mutual respect. David is a Hall of Fame driver who made me better. He pushed me just as much as I pushed him on the track. We both became better for it.

“We have always been close to the Pearson family because they were in the racing business, just like us. We stayed close, and I enjoyed visits to see David when going through South Carolina. We will miss those trips.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Pearson family and friends.”

Darlington Raceway also issued a statement Monday night. The track was the site of many special moments for Pearson. He won there a track-record 10 times.

“Darlington Raceway expresses its deepest condolences and sympathies to the family and friends of David Pearson. His record 10 wins at Darlington Raceway put him in a league of his own. His fierce competitiveness and passion for the sport endeared him to the NASCAR faithful. His Hall of Fame career will go down as one of the most prolific in the history of the sport. A native South Carolinian, he was a wonderful ambassador for our sport and for the Palmetto State. He will be missed and will always be remembered.”

Jim France, interim NASCAR Chairman and CEO, issued a statement on Pearson’s passing:

“David Pearson’s 105 NASCAR premier series victories and his classic rivalry in the 1960s and ’70s with Richard Petty helped set the stage for NASCAR’s transformation into a mainstream sport with national appeal. When he retired, he had three championships – and millions of fans. Petty called him the greatest driver he ever raced against. We were lucky to be able to call him one of our champions.

“The man they called the ‘Silver Fox’ was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence.

“On behalf of the France Family and everyone at NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of David Pearson, a true giant of our sport.”

 

NASCAR America: Who will advance?

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Joey Logano is locked into the championship four with his Martinsville win. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. hold their destiny in their hands with a 28- and 25-point cushion over the cutoff line entering this week’s race at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

The bottom five drivers in the points are most likely battling for the one remaining berth and NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty, Nate Ryan and Carolyn Manno broke down their chances in Thursday’s edition of the show.

Kevin Harvick
Nine wins, 15 top fives in 31 starts

Petty believes Harvick will win this weekend: “I don’t see anything changing just because they had a penalty, just because they got 40 points off, just because Rodney Childers is not going to be there. They’re going to overcome all that.”

Kurt Busch
One win, seven top fives in 31 starts

“If you look at Kurt Busch, maybe people were writing him off before these penalties came down, but he has a real chance here now,” said Manno.

Chase Elliott
Best finish of second (fall 2017), two top fives in five starts

“I am optimistic that maybe he could win,” Ryan said. “After Harvick, I would probably put him next among drivers who could win at Phoenix. He ran really well there last year. He’s run well there historically.”

Aric Almirola
Best finish of seventh (spring 2018), three top 10s in 15 starts

“I think everything is gravy right now for this team,” said Ryan. “I don’t they expected to be in the Round of 8. If they make it through, great. If they don’t, it’s still his best season in Cup.”

Clint Bowyer
Best finish of second (spring 2018), two top fives in 6 starts

“As disappointed as he was walking out of Texas, his last comment was ‘We’ll go get ’em.’ … They have the simplest path. They know they can’t point their way in. They know there’s no hope for them any other way except to go out and outrun everybody.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America at 5 p.m.: Kevin Harvick’s penalty and preparations for Miami

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m ET on NBCSN with a look at the repercussions of Kevin Harvick‘s Texas penalty.

Carolyn Manno is in Stamford and is joined by Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan from the Charlotte studio.

On today’s show:

  • Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team’s major penalties from Texas are still reverberating. No longer locked into the championship four, Harvick holds the final spot by only a few points. But with the playoffs heading to Phoenix, he’s coming to his best track – and a 10th win in the desert would send him to Miami. Today, we’ll focus on Harvick and the Bottom 4 – Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, and Clint Bowyer – as they head for the biggest race of the season!
  • SiriusXM’s Pete Pistone joins the show with his thoughts on the Harvick penalties, including how they’re being perceived beyond the NASCAR world. Teams constantly pushing the limits to gain performance is a fact of life in the garage. But when a team crosses the line, does that tradition end up hurting the sport’s image?
  • Already in the championship four with a win at Martinsville, Joey Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske crew are having to balance preparations between this weekend and the finale in Miami. Crew chief Todd Gordon shares how they’re doing it in an interview with Marty Snider. Plus: How has the continuity of the No. 22 pit crew and road crew helped Logano contend for a title once again?
  • The Xfinity Series is heading for its own playoff elimination race on Saturday at Phoenix, where Elliott Sadler hopes to lock into the championship four. No matter what, Sadler faces the final two races of his career as a full-time driver. Can the 43-year-old veteran earn an opportunity that few athletes receive – to go out as a champion?

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America: Chase Elliott needs an exceptional performance at Phoenix

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For Chase Elliott and the other drivers outside of the top four this week, it all comes down to the race at Phoenix (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) and to advance, Elliott will likely need the performance of a lifetime.

Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano are locked into the championship finale based on Round 3 wins while Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have at least a 25-point cushion over the remainder of the field.

Elliott is 39 points below the cutoff line; the most points available in a race is 60.

Elliott has never finished worse than 12th at Phoenix in five starts. That led him to say after last week’s Texas race “I feel better about Phoenix than I did about today, for sure. … I mean, I don’t know till we get there. Yeah, tough spot to be in. But ultimately you got to be in a must-win situation at Homestead if you ever make it down there, so you might as well get used to it and like it.”

Simply running well will not be enough, according to NASCAR America analyst Kyle Petty.

“(Elliott) does run fairly well (at Phoenix),” Petty said on Tuesday. “But again, he runs ‘fairly well’, he runs ‘pretty good.’ He runs ‘ok.’ … These guys have to have exceptional performance this week. We’ve seen Chase run seventh at Martinsville, have one of the best races at Martinsville that he’s had finish-wise – his second-best finish there in his career, although it’s been a short career … but he lost 28 points.”

Last year in this race, Elliott was also in a must-win situation to advance. He took the lead from Matt Kenseth on Lap 284 and was punching Miami into his GPS. On Lap 303 – nine laps from the end of the race – Kenseth got back around Elliott sending him to second. In 2017, Elliott losing the lead late in a race was a common theme. This year, he’s won three times already.

“It’s who you’re racing against,” Petty said. “That is the problem, the mountain that these guys have to climb. They’re racing Joey Logano. They’re racing Kevin Harvick. They’re racing Kyle Busch. They’re racing Martin Truex. Those are the guys they’ve got to beat. And you know why those guys are the top four? Because no one has beat them most of the year.”

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Scan All, Stewart-Haas Racing report

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Today’s NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Krista Voda hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Parker Kligerman and Nate Ryan.

On today’s show:

  • We’ll look back at Sunday’s race and see how Kevin Harvick took down Texas to secure a ticket to the Championship 4 at Miami. We’ll also look at the drama that unfolded for some other Playoff drivers in today’s edition of Scan All: Texas.
  • Marty Snider was busy today at Stewart-Haas Racing. He provides a report on the team’s current situation in the playoffs. He also spoke to Clint Bowyer’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, as well as Xfinity Series driver Cole Custer. The latter is coming off a win at Texas to grab a spot in the Xfinity Series Championship 4.
  • Parker Kligerman hops into the NBC iRacing Simulator to show us the challenges that await the field at the new-look ISM Raceway at Phoenix.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.