Bobby Isaac: What Speed Looks Like
It has been said that Bobby Isaac was one of the least-understood NASCAR drivers. Born in the Depression on a farm in Catawba County, North Carolina, a hard-scrabble life kept him from getting past seventh grade. Both of his parents were dead by the time he was 16, and he took up jobs at sawmills and ice houses to make a living. As a 17-year-old in 1951, he caught the racing bug when he made a trip to the newly opened Hickory Motor Speedway, which was still dirt at the time. racing became his main source of income by the end of the decade.
Hickory was the teething ground for such notables as Ralph Earnhardt, Ned Jarrett, and David Pearson, so Isaac learned from the masters. He raced at larger NASCAR tracks on and off during the early '60s, eventually getting a regular ride with Norm Krauskopf's new K&K Insurance team's Daytona in 1967. Owned by Harry Hyde, the K&K Dodge team began to march forward, entering 12 events that year. They finished second in the Grand National points to Pearson's Ford in 1968. Though he would finish sixth in points for 1969, despite 20 pole positions that season (still a record), Isaac would win the inaugural Texas 500 to finish the season, where he was awarded the Challenger.
In 1970, Isaac pulled out all the stops-he and Hyde would win 11 races and post 38 top 10 positions (out of 47 races) to win the Grand National crown. He set a new speed record at Talladega with a 199.658 (and later upped this to 201.104 after the season was over). The Dodge Daytona then went to Bonneville in 1971 to set 28 new records with Isaac behind the wheel.
Isaac drove the K&K car for Hyde at major events until the fall of 1972. He then took over Bud Moore's car in 1973, but abruptly retired during the race at Talladega that August, stating he heard voices in his head telling him to get out of the car. He would race for Banjo Matthews on occasion after that, and made his final Winston Cup start in late 1976. The following August 1977, he crawled from his late-model entry at Hickory Motor Speedway halfway through the race and collapsed; he was pronounced dead at a local hospital of heart failure.
Posthumously, Isaac would be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega and the Motorsports Press Hall of Fame in Darlington, South Carolina. he remains the 15th highest winner in the sport's history with 37 victories, all from the era when the sport was about iron men wheeling real race cars.
If you are interested in learning more about the great Bobby Isaac, then you need to get the book, Bobby Isaac: What Speed Looks Like. The book chronicals the life and times of Bobby, and contains vintage photos that most of us have never seen. contact Tarheel Press, LLC P.O. Box 3895, Hickory, NC, 28603; www.tarheelpress.com.