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Robert Vance "Bobby" Isaac
Born:
August 1, 1932      Died: August 14, 1977
Home: Catawba, NC

Bobby Isaac won 37 NASCAR Winston Cup Series events and the 1970 Winston Cup championship. In that same year, Isaac set a world closed-course record when he ran 201.104 mph at Talladega Superspeedway. In September of 1971, Isaac set 28 world class records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Many of his records exist to this day. Isaac won 50 pole positions in his NASCAR career.

Bobby Isaac drove Smokey Yunick's Chevrolet in the 1963 National 400 at Charlotte, giving it a whale of a ride before a tire blew. Afterwards, Yunick said of Isaac; "He's a race driver. I know that."

Yunick's endorsement impressed Ray Nichels, and he put Isaac in his Dodge for the 1964 season, and the young driver was on his way to greatness. Isaac's name would be associated with Dodges during his stellar career.

Isaac drove Nord Krauskopf's K&K Insurance Dodge to the Winston Cup title in 1970. He won 11 races, and his car accounted for nearly 54 percent of the total points which earned Dodge the manufacturers championship, breaking a 7 year stranglehold by Ford.

Isaac, Krauskopf and legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, decided to cap the season by going to Talladega Superspeedway, the worlds fastest track, to try for a closed-course record. On a raw, blustery day (November 24, 1970), Isaac circled the track at 201.104 mph to trump Buddy Baker's old record of 200.447 mph.

Isaac felt that this was the pinnacle of his career. Yet, in September 1971, he went on to set 28 world class records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in his Dodge. Many of his records still exist to this day.

July 1971 Daytona Firecracker 400 victory LaneBobby Isaac was born in 1932, a kid in a large North Carolina family. At 12 he went to work in a sawmill where he saved his money until he had enough to buy a pair of new shoes.

Isaac tired of working at the sawmill, and that's when he decided that he wanted to make a living driving race cars. And eventually Bobby Isaac did, winning 37 NASCAR races. Isaac could now buy all the shoes he ever wanted.

Career Accomplishments:

  • Won 37 NASCAR Races
     
  • 1970 NASCAR Grand National Division Championship (Became the Cup Series)
     
  • 1970 National Motorsports Association Driver of the Year
     
  • 1979 inducted in the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame
     
  • 1996 inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
     
  • Set 28 world class records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in his Dodge. Many of his records still exist to this day.

BOBBY ISAAC Finds the Championship

         file:///F:/Documents and Settings/Roland/My Documents/My Pictures/Racing/Drivers/BobbyIsaac 1970 Miss Wilkesboro 400, with Crew Chief Harry Hyde

The 1970 Winston Cup season gave Bobby Isaac 11 more career wins. The points race was heating up and in the second to the last race of the season, Bobby Isaac secured the championship for the first time. He continued driving for K&K until 1972 earning 5 more wins and setting 28 track speed records.

In 1973 Bobby was driving for Bud Moore. On August 12, during the middle of the Talladega 500, Bobby Isaac, was leading the race when he pulled his car off the track and into the pits and quit. He simply pulled in and got out of the car and quit. It was said that he had heard a voice telling him to get out of the car.

Isaac made some comeback attempts in 1974 through 1976. He drove his final Winston Cup race in 1976 for Banjo Matthews.

While racing in a Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory Bobby Isaac once again pulled his car off the track without warning. He suffered a heart attack and died later at a local hospital.

 

Bobby Isaac was part of Nord Krauskopf's K&K Insurance racing team. Racing car # 71, A hemi powered 1969 Dodge Daytona, they racked up 11 NASCAR Victories! In 47 races Bobby finished in the top 10 an incredible 38 times. In 1969 Isaac set a single season record on pole positions with 20.
 

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MISUNDERSTOOD CHAMPION


Who was Bobby Isaac? Few People Really Knew     By Michael Smith

Special thanks goes out to CK Sports NASCAR History Lesson 101 and Michael Smith. (Edited by T. Edwards)

In today’s NASCAR Cup, Grand National and Truck series, it’s difficult to imagine even a mediocre driver living in real obscurity. Modern media has the bases so well covered that we can find out information on any driver either through print, television or online. Such is the case with Winston Cup champions, too. With a simple click of a computer mouse or the turn of a magazine page, it’s very easy to get the scoop on Bobby Labonte or Dale Jarrett or, with only a bit more digging one can find out what Cale Yarborough is up to these days or access statistics on Cale’s career.

Granted, we might be hard-pressed to get intimate details about Red Byron (NASCAR’s first champion) but the so-called “Modern Era” champions are pretty much an open book with one possible exception: Bobby Isaac is arguably the most misunderstood and obscure of NASCAR’s champions from the past three decades.

Bobby Isaac’s upbringing was tough and unstructured. Born on August 1, 1932 to Jerrod and Katie Isaac, Bobby was the second to the youngest of nine children. The family home sat on 12 acres in the country.

When he was six, Bobby’s father died and before long, his mother took a job in a furniture factory to provide additional income for the family. Bobby was left pretty much on his own during the day. “If I didn’t want to go to school I didn’t have to,” Isaac recalled in a 1971 magazine interview. At the age of 13, Bobby dropped all pretense of attending school and quit altogether. Three years later, his mother passed away, leaving Bobby and his 2 youngest sisters to live with an older sister and her 3 children.

Left literally to his own resources, a 16 year old Bobby Isaac took a job in a cotton mill and put every penny into building a race car only to find out when it was finished that he was not old enough to race. Thus he had to wait a short period of time to race. He knocked off for a year, doing little or nothing, then hired on as a helper on an ice truck.

Bobby’s sister Goldie, ten years his elder, convinced Bobby to come live with her and her husband Carl Setzer. Bobby took a job in a sawmill, working with his brother-in-law. Bobby remained with his sister until about the age of 19 when he married. His first marriage to Betty Jean lasted for more than 1 year. They had a son, Randy, built a house near her parents in North Newton. 

However, within a year the marriage was over and Bobby went back to job-hopping. By that time, he had progressed to some success in racing which put him in the lime  light and in contact with young women. He  met his second wife, Patsy Story. He divorced the first wife and child who was about 5 at that time and married Patsy. They had twin girls.

Sadly, Bobby could not read or write. Patsy was a school teacher and taught him to read and write. Isaac resented this story and worried that it might prompt other aspiring drivers to follow his path.

“I’ve made it,” Isaac said in 1971. “But I may have made it faster if I had finished my formal education. I really prefer not to talk about it. I think that if a boy is sincerely interested in auto racing he should finish school, go to college and get an engineering degree.”

In the meantime, Bobby had taken to racing. Bobby had seen his first race at about the age of 17. Right around the time of his first marriage, a track was built in Hickory, North Carolina and for reasons he couldn’t explain later, Bobby went to see a race. Bobby went home with the itch to run the dirt track.

Bobby bought a 1937 Ford and put roll bars in it. “I thought it was a race car,” Bobby recalled years later. Bobby’s first local race ended abruptly when he flipped the Ford on the second lap. The wreck did little to dampen Bobby’s drive to race full time.

Bobby continued to work, jumping from the sawmill to a pool hall, then to a cotton mill while getting in whatever weekly racing he could. Then, in 1956 Bobby went racing full time, racing a sportsman division car with Frank Hefner four or five nights a week. Bobby pulled down between $100 to $125 per week during the 1956 and 1956 seasons, more than he could make as a regular working man. In the off-season, Bobby bided his time working with his brother-in-law farming and drilling wells.

In 1958 Bobby took another important step when he spent the season with Ralph Earnhardt. During that season Bobby won some 28 feature events racing against the likes of Ned Jarrett, David Pearson and Ralph Earnhardt. “I got to know some of the drivers, but not well enough for them to let me have a car,” Bobby remembered wistfully, years later.

The inaugural World 600 at Charlotte nearly gave Bobby an opportunity to turn hot laps in a Grand National event. Not knowing the effects of running a 600 mile race, Jimmy Thompson’s team asked Bobby to act as a stand-in, just in case Thompson should become too tired to finish the event. Bobby took the car out for practice and turned laps in the 116 mph range. Unfortunately, Thompson’s car gave up before he did and Bobby didn’t get a chance to fill in during the actual race.

In the next World 600, Bobby piloted Junior Johnson’s main event car during one of the mandatory 100 mile preliminary races. Johnson, wanting to save his World 600 car, asked Bobby to take two laps and park the car, which Bobby obligingly did, without fanfare or compensation. “…I was still happy to do it,” Bobby told a reporter years later.

While continuing to show his prowess on the shade tree, small town, dirt track modified circuit Bobby received a call from a wealthy young man by the name of Bondy Long. Long had recently purchased a Plymouth from the Petty camp and wanted Bobby to run for him in the 1963 season. Unfortunately, Bobby failed to finish his qualifying race and missed out on the Daytona 500. After a couple short track efforts, the team realized they needed better equipment. Long approached his mother, who seems to have been not only wealthy but more understanding than most. Momma Long fronted the money to purchase a car from the powerhouse Holman-Moody shop. The new car arrived less than a week before the Atlanta 500. Bobby qualified the car in 21st position and finished in 20th when a blown engine sidelined him late in the race. Mechanical woes sidelined them more often than not during the next few races and a rift grew between Bobby and the chief mechanic Mack Howard. Following the Southern 500 Bobby stepped out of the car, knowing that it would have to be him or Howard. “Bondy had his choice. Mack or me. I went.” Nevertheless, Bobby would wind up being a friend of Mack Howard’s.

Bobby took a chance and called Smokey Yunick to inquire about piloting a car for the “Best Damned Garage In Town.” Smokey needed a driver for the National 500 in Charlotte so Bobby stepped into the car, but after being involved in a couple of accidents, Bobby pulled the car behind the wall.

In the winter of 1963 Bobby got what was perhaps his biggest break when Bud Allman, a former mechanic for Ned Jarrett, went to work for Ray Nichels. Once in the Nichel’s camp, Allman began to push to have Bobby installed as the driver. Bobby eventually got the job, but later learned that had he even once complained about the car, he would likely have been passed over for Paul Goldsmith.

Bobby married Patsy Ann Story on December 22, 1963 and enjoyed four short days together before Bobby hustled off to be with the Nichels’ team. “It was my first factory ride, and I wasn’t going to give it up,” Bobby explained years later.

At the 1964 Daytona 500 Bobby dashed to a surprise victory over Richard Petty and Jimmy Pardue in the second qualifying race – his first start for the factory backed team. The finish was not without its excitement however. Coming to the checkered flag, Richard Petty had nearly a half lap lead when he ran out of gas and coasted across the line doing about 45 mph while Bobby and Jimmy Pardue whizzed by at nearly 170 mph. The photo finish camera clicked but produced a blank sheet and the call went out for anyone with pictures of the finish. Meanwhile, Bobby, Richard and Jimmy shared the spotlight, each holding on to the trophy. Four hours later it was announced that Bobby had been the winner.

Bobby and the Nichels team ran 19 races in 1964, earning 7 top ten finishes including their win in the Daytona qualifier and a top ten in the Daytona 500 despite engine woes. The story of Bobby’s 1964 season seems to be “close but no cigar” as time and again he was narrowly edged out on the super speedways. He finished second to Fred Lorenzen in the Atlanta 500 and second to A.J. Foyt in the Firecracker 500 when Foyt made a pass for the win on the last lap.

Following Big Bill France’s veto of the hemi engine in 1965, Ray Nichels took Bobby and the team to the USAC circuit. Bobby looked back on that stint somewhat fondly. “We had a pretty good season up there. I won two races and I led several others before we returned to NASCAR late in the 1965 season.”

The Nichels team returned to NASCAR racing late in the season but Bobby didn’t last long, quitting the Dodge-backed effort to drive for Junior Johnson who had recently received backing from Ford for the 1966 season. That season turned out to be not so stellar for Bobby.

On track wrecks, coupled with Ford’s boycott of NASCAR for part of the season, conspired to hamper Bobby’s effort. To make matters worse, when Ford returned, Bobby was released as driver. “It wasn’t a good year for me. I wrecked in seven or eight races. Ford quit for awhile and when it came back I was fired. I still made about $15,000 despite a bad year. Ford paid me a salary of $200 a week while it was out of racing and even after I was fired. I also got $100 weekly salary from Holly Farms.” Not bad for part-time, back-of-the-pack racing.

The future did not look bright for Bobby Isaac in mid-1966. As he explained himself a few years later, he had quite a Dodge team and Ford didn’t want him. The prospects for being picked up by any team seemed dim indeed. Even a ray of light at the end of the season flickered and died. Asked by Cotton Owens to fill in for David Pearson in the season’s final race, Bobby gladly obliged but seemingly like his career, the car developed a mechanical problem and he was forced to drop out. There seemed to be no end to Bobby's struggles.

Bobby eventually divorced Patsy and he married the 3rd time, to Linda Mackey, then 2 weeks later he died.   
 (c) 2001. Michael Smith (Edited by: T. Edwards 10/10/10)

 

[AW Logo]AERO WARRIORS.com  Bobby Isaac Daytona © 1996-2005 by   Ken R. Noffsinger   
                                          
You have to see this site!





At the Bonneville Salt Flats
With Bobby Isaac and Harry Hyde

Click Here
By George M. Wallace

Bobby Isaac setting records at the bonneville Salt Flats in the early 70's

 


Bobby and Harry Hyde


Good friend David Pearson & Bobby

Pictures courtesy of Aero Warriors.
You have to see this website! Click Here!

Grand National Statistics

Year Age Races Win T5 T10 Pole Laps Led Earnings Rank AvSt AvFn Miles
1961 28 1 of 52 0 0 0 0 2 0 50 158 15.0 18.0 3.0
1963 30 27 of 55 0 3 7 0 4989 30 9,529 20 11.3 14.6 4299.2
1964 31 19 of 62 1 5 7 0 3163 134 26,733 18 8.3 14.6 3359.6
1965 32 4 of 55 0 1 1 1 699 183 1,860 75 5.5 22.2 471.8
1966 33 9 of 49 0 2 3 0 1387 21 5,530 53 10.8 20.1 1388.2
1967 34 12 of 49 0 3 5 0 2625 65 24,474 14 11.6 15.3 3927.0
1968 35 49 of 49 3 27 36 3 12947 1384 60,342 2 5.7 8.1 9159.8
1969 36 50 of 54 17 29 33 19 12308 5072 92,074 6 3.6 10.0 9345.6
1970 37 47 of 48 11 32 38 13 12726 3188 199,600 1 3.8 6.8 11250.6
1971 38 25 of 48 4 16 17 4 6856 1753 106,526 23 4.1 10.8 7603.7
1972 39 27 of 31 1 10 10 9 5636 1326 133,257 19 3.4 19.3 6872.3
1973 40 19 of 28 0 5 6 0 4177 62 84,550 26 6.7 20.2 4544.7
1974 41 11 of 30 0 1 5 0 1907 11 22,642 33 11.7 20.4 2489.9
1975 42 6 of 30 0 0 1 0 1101 0 6,695 48 12.7 26.8 1213.6
1976 43 2 of 30 0 0 1 0 512 0 4,190 114 23.5 22.0 539.5
15 years 308 37 134 170 49 71035 13229 778,052   6.3 12.9 66468.5

Top 5 an astounding 44% of the time!
Top 10 an incredible 56% of the time!
Pole 16% of the time! Average start 6th position. Avg. finish 13th.


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