by Gauk
Thu, Nov 24, 2016 2:07 AM

Bobby Isaac (August 1, 1932 – August 14, 1977) was an American stock car racer. Isaac was NASCAR's Grand National Series champion in 1970.

Born August 1, 1932
Catawba, North Carolina, U.S.
Died August 14, 1977 (aged 45)
Hickory, North Carolina, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack due to heat exhaustion
Achievements 1970 Grand National Serieschampion
Holds Sprint Cup Series record for most poles in a season (20 poles in 1969)
Awards Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers (1998)
National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame (1979)
International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1996)
NASCAR Hall of Fame (2016)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
308 races run over 14 years
Best finish 1st (1970)
First race 1961 World 600 qualifier No. 1 (Charlotte)
Last race 1976 World 600 (Charlotte)
First win 1964 Daytona 500 qualifier No. 2 (Daytona)
Last win 1972 Carolina 500 (Rockingham)
Wins Top tens Poles
37 170 49
NASCAR Grand National East Series career
8 races run over 2 years
Best finish 30th (1973)
First race 1972 Hickory 276 (Hickory)
Last race 1973 Buddy Shuman 100 (Hickory)
First win 1972 Albany-Saratoga 250 (Malta)
Last win 1972 Coalminers 200 (Lonesome Pine)
Wins Top tens Poles
4 6 4
Statistics current as of April 17, 2013.

Early life

Isaac grew up on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina, the second-youngest of nine children. He finished school after the sixth grade, which led to the incorrect rumor that he could neither read nor write.

NASCAR career

He began racing full-time in 1956, but it took him seven years to break into the Grand National division. Isaac won the championship in 1970 driving the No. 71 Dodge Charger Daytonasponsored by K&K Insurance. His crew chief was Harry Hyde. Isaac and Hyde took the car to Talladega in November and set a closed-course speed record.

Isaac won 37 races in NASCAR's top series during his career, including 11 in his championship season, and started from the pole position 50 times. Isaac currently holds the NASCAR record for most poles in a single season, with 20 in 1969. In 1970 he turned a 201.104 mph lap at Talladega, a record that stood until 1983.

Isaac dropped out of the 1973 Talledega 500 mid-race in an impulsive decision which surprised his pit crew and the team owner. "I wasn't afraid I was going to wreck...I don't have anything to prove to myself or to anybody else. I know how it feels to win and lose. I know how it feels to be a champion. And now I know how it feels to quit. It just entered my mind at that moment," Isaac said. "I decided to quit and that was that. (Team owner) Bud Moore didn't know I had quit until after the race. I didn't know about (Larry) Smith at that time." (Larry Smith was the first fatality at Talledega Speedway, which happened earlier in the race). Isaac did not participate in any further 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup races after Talladega, and the presumption by sports commentators in late 1973 was that he was retiring from the sport.

Ultimately, Isaac did return to NASCAR racing as a driver from 1974 through 1976, on a reduced schedule.

Land speed records

Isaac also made his mark outside of NASCAR. In September 1971, he went to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and set 28 world speed records, some of which still stand.


Bobby Isaac was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 1979, and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1998 NASCAR honored Isaac as one of its 50 greatest drivers. On May 20, 2015, Isaac was announced as a member of the 2016 induction class to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.


On Saturday night, August 13, 1977, while running fourth, Isaac pulled out of the Winston 200 late model sportsman race at Hickory Motor Speedway with 40 laps left, and called for a relief driver, collapsing on pit road of heat exhaustion. Weather reports for the area that day showed temperatures which had reached 91 °F (33 °C) at mid-afternoon, and were still around 80 °F (27 °C) at the time of Isaac's collapse. Though Isaac was revived briefly at the hospital and was conversing with friends, he later died from a heart attack caused by heat exhaustion, at 12:45 am, August 14.

Details of Isaac's pit lane collapse on the night of his death were given to reporters by friend and former racing driver Ned Jarrett. Jarrett asserted at that time that the reason Isaac left the 1973 Talladega 500 was because he "had heard a voice that told him to quit".

Daytona 500
Year Team Manufacturer Start Finish
1963 Bondy Long Plymouth DNQ
1964 Nichels Engineering Dodge 4 15
1966 Junior Johnson & Associates Ford 14 21
1967 K&K Insurance Racing Dodge 23 19
1968 11 36
1969 2 30
1970 3 5
1971 2 10
1972 1 33
1973 Bud Moore Engineering Ford 10 2
1974 Matthews Racing Chevrolet 3 8
published by Gauk