David Pearson, a three-time champion in today's Monster Energy Cup series from NASCAR, died on Monday at the age of 83, with the Wood Brothers Racing team confirming this with ESPN.
In the NASCAR Hall of Fame in his second class in 2011, Pearson won 105 Cup races, second only to Richard Petty, Pearson & # 39; s main challenger in the 1960s and 1970s. Between 1963 and 1977, the two finished in 63 races in first and second place, with Pearson won 33 of them.
"I've always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career is, the answer was always David Pearson:" Petty said Monday evening in a statement. David and I got together throughout our careers, fighting for victory ̵
"It was not a rivalry, but more mutual respect. David is a Hall of Fame rider who did better. He pushed me just as I pushed him on the track. We were both better at it.
Petty and Pearson remained friends after the end of their race days.
"We've always been close to the Pearson family because they were in the racing business like us," Petty said. "We stayed close and I got it enjoyed visiting David as he walked through South Carolina. We will miss these trips. "
NASCAR said in a statement Monday that Pearson's legendary competition with Petty" has helped set the stage for transforming NASCAR into a mainstream nationally-appealing sport. "
" When he retired, he had three championships – and millions of fans, "said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Jim France." Petty called him the biggest driver he ever drove against. We were lucky enough to call him one of our champions. The man they called "Silver Fox" was the gold standard for NASCAR excellence. "
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski were among the pilots who paid tribute to Pearson on Monday David Pearson was one of the two greats of all time, and anyone who raced with him will tell you that he is the one Best of all, the silver fox filled his role on and off the track, what a nonsense RIP pic.twitter.com/LGGJ7ZIje9
– Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) November 13, 2018  RIP David Pearson.
I'd say if one of the drivers inspired me the most on the racetrack Dirty, funny and in position at the end, as it counted
– Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) November 13, 2018
Known as the "Silver Fox" for his penchant while others lie in wait Pearson had put himself in the lead early in the race, and Pearson seemed to have come out of nowhere to be the lead in the race decreasing laps of a race to take over.  His signature win came in the 1976 Daytona 500, when he overtook Petty in the back round on the last lap, only to contact Petty, who was trying to regain the lead from Round 4. Both cars hit the wall and
Pearson was able to throw his Wood Brothers Ford back and passed Petty's Dodge for victory. While Petty won 200 Cup races with Pearson 105, Pearson's achievements are notable for winning the championship when he ran for only three times.
During his time at the Wood Brothers, the team focused only on the larger races, so he was not in the championship.
In his introduction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Pearson recalled his battles with Petty.
] "He's probably the one who got me to win as many as I do," Pearson said. "I run hard because he makes me run hard."
"Sometimes he made a mistake and I would overtake him. Of course, I did not make any mistakes – I always accused him of having big engines as he passed me by. But he is a good sport. Like I said, I had more fun running with him than anyone else I've ever run with, because I know if I ever went to a racetrack and he was there, if I could beat him, I would Win races. "19659002" Pearson's most successful track was in his home state, winning ten times at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.
"His keen competitiveness and passion for the sport made him a NASCAR believer," said Darlington Raceway President Kerry His Hall of Fame career will be considered one of the most prolific in the history of the sport … He will be missed and always remembered. "
Pearson's first championship came in 1966, when he won 15 of his 42 starts , followed by championships in 1968 (16 wins in 48 starts) and 1969 (11 wins.) in 51 starts).
Bob Pockrass of ESPN contributed to this report.