At CMS, Pearson And The Woods Made A Record Not To Be Broken
Sports fans, or course, are well acquainted with the frayed cliché, “Records are made to be broken.”
Uh, well, one record almost certainly wasn’t.
That’s a qualifying mark established by David Pearson and the Wood Brothers team at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where time trials are scheduled today for the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday.
From October of 1973 through October of ’78 the Pearson-Woods combination won an incredible 11 straight pole positions at CMS in qualifying for the track’s two major events of that era, the National 500 and the World 600.
The Woods, Glen and Leonard, added two more poles to the streak in 1979 with driver Neil Bonnett for 13 in a row after Pearson left the team.
I suppose that some time in the future it’s possible that these records will be shattered when some young hot-shoe and a powerhouse team come along.
But that’s not likely.
Most followers of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series say not a chance.
Count me among them.
Also count Waddell Wilson, a long-time rival engine builder/crew chief of Pearson and the Woods, while also being a friend.
“To me, what Glen, Leonard and David did at Charlotte is absolutely one of the most amazing records in racing,” says Wilson, who worked with Pearson early in their careers at Holman-Moody in the 1960s. “Think of all that could have gone wrong during those qualifying laps—a low or cut tire, a burp in the engine, a slight slip-up in a corner. It didn’t happen, at least not to the point it ruined their runs for the poles.
“I hated getting beat by them, but I’m glad I was around to see what they did.”
Pearson is among five of stock car racing’s most storied figures inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in Charlotte on Monday night. The others: Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, team owner-crew chief Bud Moore and the late NASCAR pioneer driver-owner, Lee Petty.
Pearson is second only to Richard Petty in big-time victories and poles. Petty has 200/127, Pearson 105/113.
“I’ll have to say that the streak here at Charlotte was a lot of fun,” Leonard Wood conceded prior to the induction ceremony with a soft smile. “The longer it went, the more fun it became.
“But the pressure mounted, too, to keep it going. Fans, especially ours, started to think winning the poles at Charlotte should be automatic for us.
“Credit David’s driving for a great, great part of what we accomplished. To this day, I say that he’s the smoothest, smartest driver ever in NASCAR.
“He just had a touch for getting a car through a turn, and this was truly the case here at Charlotte. The way he entered the corners, he could stay on the gas longer, and the way he exited he could get back on it sooner.”
Wood smiled again.
“I don’t want to be immodest,” he continued. “But we also had pretty good cars.”
How about great cars!?
Overall, Pearson scored a record 14 poles at the 1.5-mile Charlotte speedway. The last came prior to the 600 of 1982 in a Buick fielded by Bobby Hawkins.
That record likely is safe as well, but present-day star Ryan “Rocket Man” Newman has a shot at it with nine No. 1 CMS starts.
During his long run as the qualifying king at Charlotte, Pearson, nicknamed the “Silver Fox” for his racing savvy, was coy about the streak of success.
He often alluded to various “bumps” in the track’s pavement, attributing his run of poles to “getting around and over these better than anybody else.”
In particular, Pearson mentioned a bump in the fourth turn.
At one time the track’s asphalt pavement in turn four became so rough that Darrell Waltrip nicknamed it the “Humpty-Dumpty-Bumpty Corner,” obviously a joking reference to speedway president Humpy Wheeler.
The matter of Pearson winning so many consecutive poles because of his perceived prowess in mastering the bump became such a point that Wheeler became determined to do something about it.
The situation evolved into a game of wits between Wheeler and Pearson.
Wheeler had a stretch of pavement torn up in the fourth turn and new asphalt put down.
There was great anticipation and drama as Pearson’s turn came to make his qualifying run in the Wood Brothers’ maroon and white No. 21 Ford.
He was fastest yet again.
The first question in the pole winner’s interview:
What about the bump?
Pearson beamed broadly and his dark eyes flashed impishly.
“Humpy fixed the wrong end of the track!” David declared devilishly.
View the article at Motorspors Unplugged http://motorsportsunplugged.com/?p=3563
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