DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Richard Petty's greatest rival in the heyday of old-school NASCAR racing was David Pearson, the two combining for 10 Daytona 500 victories.
With a record-setting seven Daytona 500 championships, Petty was the undisputed "King" of the superspeedway, with Pearson, known as the "Silver Fox," notching three Daytona 500 wins in his own right, including a last-lap crash involving the two drivers with Pearson crossing the checkered flag in the 1976 Daytona 500 after Petty's STP car slid off the track and stalled in the grass.
"I have always been asked who my toughest competitor in my career was. The answer has always been David Pearson," Petty said Monday night in a prepared statement after leaning Pearson had died at age 83. "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," Petty continued. "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."