Between 1972-1974, David Pearson captured three Pepsi 400 victories at Daytona International Speedway, a record that has remained untouched for more than 20 years.
On Saturday night, July 7 in the 49th annual Pepsi 400 NEXTEL Cup Series event, Tony Stewart will attempt to put his name alongside Pearson in the Daytona International Speedway record books by winning his third straight mid-summer classic.
Pearson, whose nickname is 'The Silver Fox,' believes Stewart can do it.
"The way he is running, he has a real good chance to get it," said the 72-year-old Pearson from his home in Spartanburg, S.C.
Unlike his rival Richard Petty, who owns seven Daytona 500 victories, Pearson made his mark at "The World Center of Racing" in July. The three-time NASCAR champion captured a record five Pepsi 400 victories while only being able to manage a single Daytona 500 win - the famous last-lap battle against Petty in the 1976 Daytona 500.
Pearson can't put his finger on why Daytona was so kind to him in July.
"I don't know what it was but it seemed like I run better in July than in February down there," Pearson said. "I don't know if it was the way we set the car up or because it was usually hot and slicker in July than it is in February. I don't know if it was luck but it seemed like I always ran better in July than I did in February."
A common trait in each of Pearson's three consecutive Pepsi 400 victories was that Petty finished second.
One of the more remembered finishes of Pearson's three consecutive Pepsi 400 wins would be the 1974 race. On the white flag lap, Pearson was leading Petty when Pearson backed off the throttle and ducked to the low side of the track on the straightaway entering Turn 1. Petty had to take evasive action and pass him.
But Pearson gained enough steam and made up the two-second deficit and pulled off sling shot pass in Turn 4. Petty, who had yet to win a 400 at the time, was furious about Pearson's last lap tricks. It was the fourth time in a row that Petty finished second in the Pepsi 400.
For Pearson, no matter the circumstances, his Daytona victories "were all good."
"Of course Richard and I always ran real close together," Pearson said. "We had a good time running with each other and I always enjoyed running with him. There were all good. Anytime you can go to a place like Daytona and win. After the race, we would always go back to the motel and by the pool and stuff like that. It was just enjoyable to go there and run, especially when you win."
Pearson says he will keep an eye on the upcoming Pepsi 400 during the Independence Day holiday weekend to see if Stewart can match his record of three straight Pepsi 400 victories.
"I'm always interested in the races," Pearson said. "But as far as the record, records are made to be broken. He has just as good a chance as anybody as far as that goes to break the record. Of course I'll be watching. No doubt about that."
Tickets for the Pepsi 400 Weekend, including the Pepsi 400 on Saturday, July 7, the Winn-Dixie 250 presented by PepsiCo NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday, July 6 and the Brumos Porsche 250 Rolex Series race on Thursday, July 5, are available at racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.