Isaac won 37 NASCAR races, including 11 in his championship season of 1970. Hestarted from pole 50 times, 20 of them in a single season in 1969. In 1971 he set 28 world speed records at Bonneville Salt Flats. In 1977 he retired from a Late Model Sportsman race at Hickory Motor Speedway with 25 laps left and died of a heart attack.
Bobby Isaac was born in Claremont, NC, in 1932. He was Dale Earnhardt’s favorite driver, he won a photo finish at Daytona, his crew chief was played by Robert Duvall in the movie “Days of Thunder,” yet this NASCAR Cup Champion is probably the least known of all the champions of the last 40 years. He grew up on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina, the second-youngest of nine children. His father died when Bobby was six. Isaac dropped out of school at age 13 which lead to the incorrect rumor that he could neither read nor write. Yet, today, a college motor sports program is named in his honor.
He was still working in a cotton mill when he began racing full-time in 1956 at the Hickory Motor Speedway, but it took him seven years to break into the Grand National division. After a successful season in 1964, his name soon became synonymous with Dodge; and the association continued throughout his winning career. Isaac won the championship in 1970 driving the number 71 Dodge Charger Daytona sponsored by K and K Insurance. His crew chief was legendary Harry Hyde. Isaac & 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. He took 20 poles in a single season in 1969. This NASCAR record that will be hard to beat since there are currently 36 races on the schedule.
He set 28 records on the Bonneville Salt Flats, including a “flying mile” at 217 mph and 100 miles at an average speed over 194 mph in a car that anyone could buy at their local car dealership and with minor modifications run at similar speeds.
On August 14, 1977, Isaac’s racing career ended at Hickory Motor Speedway, where it began almost 20 years before. After pitting his car during a race, Isaac collapsed and was brought to the hospital were he was treated for heat exhaustion, but he soon suffered a massive heart attach. Isaac died at the age of 43.
Bobby Isaac is buried in a cemetery plot donated by Ned Jarrett in Catawba Memorial Park overlooking Hickory Motor Speedway. Pallbearers were David Pearson, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Tim Flock, Ned Jarrett and Neil Castles. Just down the highway is Catawba Valley Community College, home of the Bobby Isaac Motorsports Program.
Having broken records at Talladega and Bonneville and won the 1970 NASCAR Grand National (now Nextel Cup Series) Championship, Isaac was inducted posthumously into the Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 25, 1996.