David Pearson’s Miracle Season
by Tom Jensen June 05, 2023
South Carolina driver David Pearson didn’t race much in 1973, but when he did, he was hard to beat.
Conventional wisdom says the greatest single season in NASCAR history belongs to Richard Petty (NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010), who in 1967 won 27 of 49 races on the Cup Series schedule, including 10 in a row.
Both the single-season victory total and the consecutive victory total Petty set in ’67 have stood for 56 years already and likely will stand forever.
Best season ever? Unquestionably.
But the most remarkable season ever just might belong to Petty’s archrival and fellow Hall of Famer David Pearson (Class of 2011).
Unlike Petty, South Carolina native Pearson rarely ran a full season. But when Pearson raced, there were times when he was nearly unbeatable.
And that brings us to 1973, when Pearson had what arguably could be considered the most remarkable year in NASCAR history. That season, Pearson raced part-time for the Wood Brothers Racing team, the legendary Stuart, Virginia-based team founded by Glen Wood (Class of 2012), with Mercury Cyclone stock cars prepared by brother Leonard Wood (Class of 2013).
In 1973, Pearson competed in only 18 races, but the numbers he put up were staggering. He won 11 of those 18, or 61.1 percent, compared to the 56.25 percent victory total Petty posted in 1967. And that’s just for starters.
During that magical 1973 season, Pearson had four DNFs in 18 races, meaning his Wood Brothers' Mercury was running at the finish of 14 races. In the 14 races Pearson finished, he won 11, was runner-up twice and finished third once. That gave him an average finish of 1.286 in those events he completed.
As if that weren’t enough, Pearson earned eight poles and led 49.8 percent of the laps he completed. When he was on the track in 1973, Pearson was unstoppable. He also swept both races at three tracks: Atlanta, Dover and Rockingham.
Three years later, Pearson nearly duplicated his feat, winning 10 times and posting 16 top fives in 22 starts. During the ’76 campaign, Pearson won the Daytona 500, the World 600 and the Southern 500, NASCAR’s three biggest races at the time.
Among the David Pearson and Wood Brothers Racing artifacts on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is a race report from the 1973 Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, where Pearson bested a 60-car field to win in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Mercury.