Racer Bobby Isaac (45) died of a heart attack caused by heat exhaustion suffered while driving in a NASCAR Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory, North Carolina (US)


Saturday 13th August 1977

Racer Bobby Isaac (45) died of a heart attack caused by heat exhaustion suffered while driving in a NASCAR Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory, North Carolina (US). 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 Daytona sponsored 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 49 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).[3] 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. 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.


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