Family of the late Bobby Isaac thrilled to see legend headed for Hall
Bobby Isaac was born into adversity and died way too young, but for a brief moment his star shone brightly as he dominated NASCAR during the fabled aero wars of 1969-70.
Bobby Isaac made his NASCAR Premier Series debut in 1961 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
By Tom Jensen
Bobby Isaac was born into adversity and died way too young, but for a brief moment his star shone brightly as he dominated NASCAR during the fabled aero wars of 1969-70. And for his accomplishments, Isaac will join Bruton Smith, Curtis Turner, Terry Labonte and Jerry Cook as inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
The second youngest of nine children, Isaac's father died when he was six and his mother died when he was a teenager. Growing up in poverty, Isaac dropped out of school and worked as a laborer in a cotton mill and a sawmill, and for a time delivered ice.
Like a lot of young men in the Carolinas, Isaac was fascinated by racing and by the late 1950s was racing full-time in the old NASCAR Sportsman Series on dirt tracks throughout the Southeast.
Isaac made his NASCAR Premier Series debut in 1961, completing just 2 of 67 laps in a preliminary 100-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His first win would come in 1964, when Isaac drove a Ray Nichels-owned Dodge to victory in a 40-lap Daytona 500 qualifying race.
In 1966, Isaac ran just nine races in the NASCAR Premier Series, collecting six DNFs. But in the other three races, he finished seventh or better in each race, which caught the eye of car owner Nord Krauskopf, who signed Isaac for 1967, pairing the driver with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde.
In '67, Isaac went winless in a limited 12-race schedule. But from there he exploded onto the ranks of the NASCAR elite, winning three races in 1968 and a whopping 17 in 1969. During the '69 season, Isaac won 19 poles, a record that still stands today.
Although he didn't win as many races in 1970, Isaac won his first and only championship, amassing 11 victories, 32 top-five finishes and 13 poles.
Isaac's crew featured some of the biggest heroes in NASCAR lore: Crew chief Hyde would later by portrayed by Robert Duvall as Harry Hogge in "Days of Thunder." One of the other crewmen was Robert Gee, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s grandfather and one of the premier fabricators in NASCAR history. Buddy Parrott, who went on to be one of NASCAR's top crew chiefs, was on the team, as was Raymond Fox Jr., son of the famed car owner and mechanic.
And the car Isaac drove to his 1970 championship, a bright-red, winged Dodge Daytona bearing the number 71 and K&K Insurance sponsorship, is one of the most recognizable in all of NASCAR history. Right driver, right team, right car, right time. Together, they made history.
The car Bobby Isaac drove to his 1970 championship, a bright-red, winged Dodge Daytona bearing the number 71 and K&K Insurance sponsorship, is one of the most recognizable in all of NASCAR history.
The team even went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1971, where Isaac set 28 speed records, including hitting 217.368 miles per hour in the flying kilometer in his winged Dodge. And that sharp red paint? It was actually a Ford color called "Poppy Red" that was used on the 1964 Mustang.
But Isaac's time at the pinnacle of the sport was far too brief. While driving for Bud Moore at Talladega Superspeedway in 1973, Isaac pulled into the pits in the middle of the race, got out of his car and abruptly quit, saying a voice in his head told him to get out of the car.
Then, in the summer of 1977, Isaac decided to enter a late-model race at Hickory Motor Speedway, his hometown track in North Carolina. After running well initially, Isaac pitted with about 10 laps to go with what was believed to be a case of heat prostration.
Isaac was taken to the nearby Catawba Memorial Hospital in Hickory. There, he suffered a massive heart attack and despite the efforts of a second-year medical student named Jerry Punch, Isaac died. He was just 45 years old and he died two days before Elvis Pressley did.
Isaac's son, Randy, said he's thrilled to see his father be recognized for his greatness on the track.
"This is the greatest," said Randy Isaac. "It's special. My dad's been gone a long time. He was nominated or whatever, and we've waited the past few years. We were here last year and got disappointed and I thought we might leave (disappointed) again today, but we're happy. We can go home happy. ... It means everything for his entire family -- brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, the entire town. Everyone cared for my dad."