Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The King v. The Silver Fox: Race hard with class

Despite the collective mixed feelings about the economic viability and the authenticity of some of the exhibits of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, it is still mighty cool to see the well deserved pride and joy of those inducted each January and those nominated in April for future selection. In the few years of the NHOF's activities, I find it particularly fun to see former competitors enjoy each other's company and recognize one another's accomplishments.

Much has been said over the last couple of years that NASCAR needs new "rivalries" - as in a good guy vs a bad guy.
  • Make Kyle and Kurt angrier. 
  • Light Harvick's fuse so he'll go off. 
  • Feed Smoke's surliness. 
  • Keep kicking JoLo until he fights back.
  • Repeat Jeff Gordon's slap fights against Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Bowyer in the hopes he'll drum up some sort of rivalry after 20 years in Cup.
But as NASCAR returns to Darlington this week, I'm reminded of a rivalry of old that was a rivalry of gold - The King and The Silver Fox.

1964 - Credit: Tim Leeming of
Not only do Richard Petty and David Pearson have respect for each other now - but they also had it for one another back then. I found this article from The Sumter Daily Item earlier this year about Pearson's win in the 1970 Rebel 400. Bear in mind less than 24 hours earlier, The King had just gone through the worst wreck of his career and an overnight hospital stay.

Credit: Dargan Watts at
Putting the discomfort of his own injuries and economic pain of his wrecked cars aside, Petty made it a point to call and congratulate David on his win. THEN he turned his focus to his own team - namely to find the whereabout of his boots!

1976 - Credit: Randy Murphy of
The two drivers had a fierce yet professional rivalry. And their rivalry was one that mattered because both were generally near the front. Petty is the NASCAR Grand National / Cup all-time winner with 200 victories, and Pearson is second with 105 wins. The two finished first-second to each other an amazing 63 times from the early 1960s through the late 1970s. One trusted the other on the track - yet they likely desired to beat the other week in and week out more than any other driver.

So today's PR-managed "sport" can have its contrived rivalries, Twitter spats, attempted kicks to the groin, and misplaced cell phone numbers or addresses...

...and I'll take the time-tested rivalry.

Though I do have to concede I sheepishly wouldn't mind the return of a truly tougher rivalry - maybe one along the lines of the King vs. Bobby Allison (and his fans).


1 comment:

  1. That wreck was so close to being a much worse outcome.