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Bobby Isaac joins NASCAR Hall of Fame Class 2016
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame In a different era, in which stock cars driven to and past their limits didn't break with frequency, there's no telling how many races or championships Bobby Isaac might have won. Isaac , the 1970 NASCAR premier series champion, won 37 of his 309 starts. But he was a DNF -- did not finish -- 129 times. His 49 poles rank 10th all-time, with 19 -- a still-standing, single-season mark -- coming in 1969. Only 38 drivers have won 19 or more poles in a career. Nobody ever had to tell Isaac to "stand on it." " Bobby was a never-give-up kind of guy," said Buddy Parrott, a member of Isaac's No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge crew and a 49-time winner as a premier series crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip among others. " Bobby had no fear." Isaac's accomplishments are such that he'll join the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Terry Labonte , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Their induction will take place Jan. 22 in Charlotte, N.C. The ceremonies will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET by NBCSN. Isaac , born on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina in 1932, saw his first stock car race at nearby Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and at age 17 bought a 1937 Ford and put roll bars in it. He flipped the car on the race's second lap but that didn’t dampen his desire. Working at a variety of low-paying jobs, Isaac began racing the NASCAR late model sportsman circuit. He survived but sometimes just barely. "One time I drove 200 miles to drive a fellow's modified car with $4 in my pocket," he once said. "I figured that I'd have enough to buy gas and get down there and eat a hot dog before the race. The gas was $3 but I had to put two quarts of oil in my car so I was broke when I left town. When the feature started my stomach was not only growling but I didn’t have enough gas to get back home. "I drove that car as hard as I could and won. I had to win." Isaac , described by some as "mercurial," went sportsman racing fulltime in 1958, driving for Ralph Earnhardt. He won 28 feature events, competing against the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and David Pearson. Isaac , at age 28, competed in his first premier series event in 1961. Driving a Dodge for Ray Nichels, he won his first race in 1964 -- a 50-lap Daytona 500 qualifier in which he edged Jimmy Pardue in a photo finish after Richard Petty ran out of fuel. With factory-supported teams jumping in and out of the sport in the mid-1960s, Isaac went from top ride to no seat at all. His fortunes changed in 1968 when he was hired by Indiana insurance magnate Nord Krauskopf and paired with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, whose larger than life persona was captured as Harry Hogg in the film "Days of Thunder." Over the course of five seasons, 1968 to 1972, the trio's "Poppy Red" Dodges won 36 times -- 17 alone in 1969 when Isaac won 17 times in 50 starts. Bedeviled by 19 failures to finish, Isaac wound up sixth in the championship standings. Isaac "only" won 11 times in his championship season, but the DNFs were reduced to just nine. The K&K team is remembered best for its winged Dodge Charger Daytona, the needle-nosed, high rear-wing version of the standard Charger. Remarkably, Isaac visited Victory Lane only once in that model, at Texas World Speedway in 1969, his 20th career win and first on a superspeedway. "We won a lot of short-races, but we couldn't pull it all together on the big tracks until the last race of the season," said Isaac in Greg Fielden's book "NASCAR: The Complete History." "Winning the championship gave me personal satisfaction, but I'd rank it second to the Texas win. "The way I look at it, it took me seven years to win a superspeedway race and only three years to win the championship." In September 1971 the team took its winged car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah where Isaac set 28 speed records, including a 217.368 mph "flying kilometer" mark. "That car weighed 3,900 pounds and it had 650 horses in the motor," Hyde told Car and Driver's Bob Zeller in May 2002. "And when Bobby set it sideways, it looked like a hydroplane on water. He came by at 200 mph broadside with a big rooster tail of salt comin' out the back." Driving part-time schedules for a number of owners, Isaac ran his last premier series race in 1976. He returned to Hickory Motor Speedway the following year where, on Aug. 14, he pulled out of a sportsman race feeling ill and was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to heart failure at age 45. Isaac was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1998, NASCAR honored him as one of its 50 Greatest Drivers of all time. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.
Bobby Isaac takes different path to NASCAR Hall
RELATED: See the rings, jackets for the Class of 2016 Of the five newest members inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the career of the late Bobby Isaac was perhaps the most unusual. Isaac was inducted Saturday, along with fellow drivers Terry Labonte , Jerry Cook, Curtis Turner and track owner Bruton Smith. Isaac , who died in 1977 after suffering a heart attack, won the NASCAR premier series championship in 1970, driving for team owner Nord Krauskopf and with the help of noted crew chief Harry Hyde. It was a perfect combination of talent and ingenuity -- the team won 31 races during a three-year span from 1968-70. Isaac wound up with 37 victories in a career that spanned just 15 years at the top level. He won 49 poles, a mark that today remains 10th best for the series. WATCH THE SPEECHES: Isaac's family " Jerry Cook " Curtis Turner's daughter " Bruton Smith " Labonte's speech According to reports, he also abruptly quit racing for a time when, in the middle of an event, he heard a voice tell him to get out of the car. It's an often-told story, particularly when NASCAR's top series prepares to head to Talladega Superspeedway , site of Isaac's early departure. "Well, obviously I wasn't there with him in the car when that happened," Patsy Isaac , who was married to the driver at the time, said Saturday following his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "But I will tell you that as soon as he got out of the car and was able to get to a telephone, because we didn't have cell phones then, he called me and he repeated to me exactly what happened to him in the car. "And he said, a voice told him that he needed to get out of the car, and so he radioed to (owner) Bud Moore. He said, 'find somebody to fill in the car. I've got to get out.'" The race was the Talladega 500, the 20th stop of the '73 season and the second of two annual races at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Isaac was three years removed from his championship, and had been hired to drive owner Moore's No. 15 Ford. He had finished second to Richard Petty in that year's Daytona 500 , and placed in the top 10 in five other races. The race seemed cursed from the outset -- fellow Catawba County native Larry Smith was killed when his Mercury struck the wall barely 15 laps into the event. With the race nearly halfway complete, Isaac pulled into the pits during a caution period and unexpectedly climbed out of the car. Coo Coo Marlin, father of two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin, relieved Isaac and eventually finished 13th. Dick Brooks won the race. It was the only premier series victory of Brooks’ career. "I don't know what that experience was," Patsy Isaac said of her husband's incident. "I don't know if he felt it, it was an intuition or if it was actually a verbal voice. I don't know that, but I know that it impacted him enough that he was not going to stay in the race car." What she does know, though, is what she told Isaac when he called. "I said, 'come home.' That was fine with me," she said. "He had always said that it was not because someone had gotten killed earlier in the race, and that person was from Catawba County, and he knew them. That's all I can tell you is what he told me." Isaac attempted to resume his racing career the following year although he made just 19 premier series starts during the next three seasons. Eventually, he turned his attention to the local short tracks where he had begun his racing career. On August 13, 1977, he was competing in a Late Model Sportsman event at Hickory Speedway when he pulled into the pits, climbed from his car and collapsed. Transported to a local hospital, Isaac , 45, died the following morning.
Isaac ’s family inducts him into the Hall of Fame
Bobby Isaac's wife and son help induct the 1970 premier series champion into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
NASCAR Hall of Fame, Class of 2016
Pursuing NASCAR's triple crown intrigues Bobby Labonte
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Bobby Labonte quietly bowed out of full-time Sprint Cup Series competition at the tail end of the 2013 season. No retirement tour, no gifts. Certainly no ponies. The 2000 premier series champion has selectively dabbled in the sport since, however, with a handful of unremarkable starts at Indianapolis and the restrictor-plate tracks, knowing the pack racing may be his last remaining shot at picking up his first -- and likely final -- Cup victory in more than a decade. Labonte will run in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway , his second of a scheduled four-race slate in 2016. While not sure if this same type of deal will continue to be available to him in future years, the brother of NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte hinted at an interestingly hush-hush opportunity that could be coming down the pipeline later on this season. "I do have a couple other possibilities I am excited about that might come to fruition later on in the year that I didn't see coming around the corner but they are opportunities that might lead to something that I have been more excited about than anything I have done in my career," Labonte said Friday at Talladega. "Racing is still a big passion of mine and I know I am not going to go do a lot of things I used to do but there are still some opportunities out there that are still up on my radar that I would like to do." But what does he have left to prove? What racing goals remain? "That is a great question, too. Winning any race. It might be a bicycle race. Racing at the Sprint Cup level has gotten so intense that if you can't do it every weekend … (Talladega) is different as we all know. Last weekend and next weekend is different than here," Labonte said. "It is one of those things that I guess I kind of want to race more in a way but I don't want to race more in some ways. I don't want to do it every weekend but I know there are different series you can do that aren’t quite as strenuous as this. "My brother told me one time after about two years of retirement, 'You know, you will have a lot more friends later that you didn't know you had.' And that is true. I am enjoying that. As far as racing goes I am enjoying it and my opportunity is only four times right now through a little bit of what I want to do and a little bit from other people." One remaining goal is obvious: becoming NASCAR's first Triple Crown winner by notching a championship at each of its three national series levels. Labonte has the two arguably tougher feats down, winning the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) title by 74 points over Kenny Wallace in 1991, then taking his first and only Sprint Cup Series (then Winston Cup) title by a wide, 265-point margin over Dale Earnhardt in 2000. It's a long shot, and Labonte admits that "everything has to line up right," but he's at least considered the prospect of running for a Camping World Truck Series title. He has 10 career starts in the series, with one win (2005 at Martinsville). "It is absolutely something that we have talked about and met with some people about," Labonte said. "I couldn't just make it happen by snapping my fingers and we couldn’t quite get it all lined up. I definitely had it in my mind that it was something I really wanted to do. I would still entertain that but there is also a point where if you can chase the championship that is one thing, and you can do it in a lot of ways. "When I started racing when I was little, the passion was to race and win and that is what you want to do. You want the chance to do that. We did it back then and I think the Truck Series is very appealing to me. I loved it when I did a few of them for a couple of guys and won a race and finished in the top five quite a bit. It is definitely a different level and the garage area is a lot calmer there than it is in the Sprint Cup Series and it kind of, at this point in time, is very appealing."
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Bobby Isaac
His uncanny skill at qualifying a race car proves that. His 49 career poles ranks tied for eighth all time.
Five new names on list of 2017 Hall of Fame nominees
RELATED: NASCAR reveals nominees for 2017 Hall of Fame class " MORE: See the 2017 Hall of Fame nominees Longtime NASCAR team owner Jack Roush and four-time Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday highlight five new nominees to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2017. Roush and Hornaday join former premier series driver Ricky Rudd, winning engine builder Waddell Wilson and television broadcaster/journalist Ken Squier as first-time nominees. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominating Committee met last week in Daytona Beach, Florida, to determine this year's list of nominees. All 15 of those on the 2016 list that were not chosen for induction return on the 2017 ballot. Roush, 73, has been a car owner in NASCAR's premier series since 1988, and the Roush Fenway Racing organization has earned 135 Sprint Cup victories as well as two series championships. Four RFR drivers have won five XFINITY Series titles while the organization also sports one CWTS crown. Hornaday, 57, won Truck Series titles in 1996, '98, 2007 and '09. When he stepped aside at the end of the 2014 season, his 51 career victories were tops for the series, a mark that still stands. Rudd earned 23 premier series wins in a career that spanned three decades. One of the top road racers of his generation, Rudd scored NASCAR wins for some of the sport's top team owners, including Richard Childress, Bud Moore and Rick Hendrick. Winning the 1997 Brickyard 400 was notable as Rudd managed the feat as an owner/driver. Wilson's engines took drivers to more than 100 premier series victories, while as a crew chief, he won 19 times, including three times in the Daytona 500 . Squier began his broadcasting career at age 12 (his father owned and operated a television station) and was part of the first crew to call the Daytona 500 live (in 1979). The Squier-Hall Award, created in 2012, honors the contributions of media to the success of the sport and is named in honor of Squier and longtime Motor Racing Network broadcaster Barney Hall. The Nominating Committee also determined the list of five candidates for the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. New to the 2017 list is Janet Guthrie, the first woman to qualify for and compete in the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500 . She joins Martinsville (Va.) Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, former car owner Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves of former series sponsor RJ Reynolds and its Sports Marketing Enterprises marketing arm, and Squier. The 15 returning nominees among those to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2017: Buddy Baker -- Nineteen career premier series wins. Red Byron -- NASCAR's first strictly stock champion. Richard Childress -- Currently boasts 105 premiers series wins and six championships as a car owner. Ray Evernham -- Won three premier series titles as crew chief for Jeff Gordon ; as an owner, worked with Dodge when the manufacturer re-entered NASCAR. Ray Fox -- Car owner, engine builder and crew chief; won 14 times as an owner. Rick Hendrick -- Team owner whose Hendrick Motorsports organization has won 11 premier series titles and 240 races. Harry Hyde -- For two decades (1960s though '80s), Hyde was one of the most successful crew chiefs in the garage; helped guide Bobby Isaac to the 1970 premier series title. Alan Kulwicki -- Won premier series title in 1992 as an owner/driver. Mark Martin -- Took runner-up honors in championship battle five times; ended career with 40 premier series wins, 49 in XFINITY Series and seven in Trucks. Herschel McGriff -- A four-time winner based on the West Coast, McGriff enjoyed one of the longest NASCAR driving careers in NASCAR; former Winston West Series champion. Raymond Parks -- First team owner to win strictly stock championship (with driver Red Byron). Benny Parsons -- Former premier series champion who enjoyed a successful second career in the broadcast booth. Larry Phillips -- Legendary short track ace from the Midwest; won five NASCAR national Weekly Series titles and seven regional championships. Mike Stefanik -- Seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion. Robert Yates -- Engine builder and championship winning team owner (57 wins). Voting Panel and Nominating Committee members will meet May 25 to determine the 2017 Hall of Fame class.
Rookie of the Year gets reacquainted with NASCAR
RELATED: See more Darlington throwback schemes KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Thirty-five years after he walked away from the sport, Bruce Hill walked back in. At Kansas Speedway of all places. "If somebody would have told me back then that there would eventually be a speedway in Kansas I would have told them they needed a straightjacket," Hill said Friday. They didn't race at Kansas when Hill, now 66, debuted in NASCAR's premier series at the end of 1974. Or Las Vegas, or Texas, Chicago, Sonoma or Loudon, New Hampshire. Hill was considered an outsider, specifically a Yankee -- from Kansas. "I had to laugh," Hill said. "I had never been called a Yankee, but I was pretty far north, I guess." The 1975 Rookie of the year is on hand this weekend as a guest of Sprint Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger and the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty team. Allmendinger will run a throwback paint scheme later this year at Darlington Raceway honoring Hill for his rookie accomplishment. The original paint scheme actually came from Johnny Ray, another name some fans might not recognize, but if you've seen the semi rig steamrolling its way around Talladega Superspeedway towing the American flag during pre-race festivities, well, tip your cap to former racer Johnny Ray. Hill made 100 starts in NASCAR's premier series from 1974 through 1981, earning three top-five and 21 top-10 finishes. "I was like a lot of guys back then that ran out of money and had to get out of it and couldn't stand to go back without being involved in it," he said. "It's been a fun experience, brought back a lot of memories." His first start came at the end of the '74 season, in a car he had purchased from owner/driver Bobby Allison. The leader of the Alabama Gang had signed on late that year to drive for team owner Roger Penske. "It was the 12 car, the Coca-Cola (sponsored) car," Hill said. "We decided since we were in Kansas it didn't matter where we were going to go race, it was going to be a long trip. We saw we could still make it to a race at the end of the year in Ontario. "So we went out there and made the field. There were 80-some cars there, that's the way it used to be with all the West Coast guys there. I thought 'Uh-oh.' We were still running the big blocks; that's when they were making the switch (to small blocks). We had to run a restrictor plate and that thing would quit running halfway down the straightaway. There was nothing you could do about it. Those small blocks were flying by me." But Hill persevered and was running inside the top 10 late in the race before blowing a tire and finishing 13th. "That's when I realized, 'I think I can do this,' " he said. His final race came at Michigan International Speedway . He finished 33rd, completing only 21 laps before being sidelined by driveshaft issues. Today, Hill stays busy raising quarter horses at his home in Topeka, Kansas. He may no longer be racing, but he's still involved in horsepower. "Part of the experience this morning has been seeing people that I haven't seen for about 35 years," he said. "... I just hadn't seen these guys in a long time. It's been a neat deal just talking about the history of the sport. Some people really follow the history and some maybe not, but there is a lot to it. A lot of people have been involved through the years that a lot of people don't know about. "This is a cool deal."
No. 48 Sprint Cup team loses practice time for Kansas
The No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team of Jimmie Johnson will lose 15 minutes of practice time this week at Kansas Speedway after NASCAR posted penalties coming out of Talladega weekend. The No. 48 team failed template inspection three times during pre-race for Sunday's GEICO 500 . NASCAR also gave written warnings to the No. 44 Richard Petty Motorsports team of Brian Scott and the No. 98 Premium Motorsports team of Cole Whitt , each for two failed pre-race inspections. In the XFINITY Series, NASCAR docked the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team of Ty Dillon 15 minutes of practice time for failing laser inspection three times. The Nos. 0 ( Garrett Smithley ), 4 ( Ross Chastain ), 28 ( Dakoda Armstrong ), 43 ( Jeb Burton ), 70 ( Derrike Cope ) and 85 ( Bobby Gerhart ) teams all received written warnings for failing laser inspection twice.
Consistency, humility carry Terry Labonte into Hall
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Some label Terry Labonte the NASCAR premier series' least flamboyant champion. Perhaps it just seemed that way, when measuring Labonte alongside such colorful contemporaries as NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. His calm, quiet demeanor at least partially explains why Labonte became known as "The Iceman." The Corpus Christi, Texas driver may not have personified flash, but Labonte got the job done. Labonte won his first of two championships in 1984 and figuratively fell off the radar for a dozen years before resurfacing to claim a second title driving for Hendrick Motorsports . MORE ON 2016 CLASS: Jerry Cook " Bobby Isaac " Bruton Smith " Curtis Turner His 22 premier series victories don't accurately measure the breadth of Labonte's career. Consistency is a much better measure: 17 different seasons among the top 10 in the championship standings along with 361 top-10 finishes, the latter ranking 10th all-time. Labonte also won in the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, as well as the International Race of Champions (IROC) and shared the GTO class-winning entry in the 1984 24 Hours of Daytona. Rick Hendrick believed Labonte's attitude -- which often put others first -- may have kept him from winning more frequently. "Terry could've accomplished even more in his career had he been a little more selfish," Hendrick told The Associated Press in 2006. "But there's not a selfish bone in his body. He's a great talent, but he's just a great human being. "He'll always do what's best for the team, even if it puts him in an awkward spot." Labonte will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina on Jan. 22, along with the other four members of the Class of 2016: Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Ceremonies will be broadcast live on NBCSN at 8 p.m. ET. Born Nov. 16, 1956 and raised in south Texas, Terrance Lee Labonte was introduced to racing by his father, who worked on race cars for friends. He was a quarter-midget champion by age nine and won stock car titles in Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio from 1975 to 1977. Labonte met Louisiana oilman and sports car racer Billy Hagan, who fielded the NASCAR premier series team that carried Skip Manning to the rookie of the year title in 1976. Labonte joined the Stratagraph Racing team for the final five races of 1978 and became Hagan's permanent driver the following season in which he finished 10th but lost rookie of the year honors to Earnhardt. Labonte notched his first premier series victory in the 1980 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . With sponsorship from Piedmont Airlines, Labonte, Hagan and NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief Dale Inman captured the 1984 championship with victories at Bristol Motor Speedway and the Riverside (California) International Raceway road course. Success, however, was fleeting. "We weren't supposed to win it and we didn't know what to do with it," said Inman, who left the team to rejoin Richard Petty. Labonte agreed, reminiscing after his second title, "I thought it was a pretty neat deal and we'd win it the next year. Next year took a long time coming." Labonte departed the Hagan outfit for Junior Johnson's Budweiser team, then went to Precision Performance followed by a second stint with Stratagraph. He joined Hendrick Motorsports in 1994. "I looked at his statistics early in his career and I couldn't believe how well he'd run with the equipment he was in," Hendrick later told The Associated Press. Labonte responded by winning the 1996 championship, edging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 37 points. His younger brother, Bobby , won the season-ending NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the two celebrated together. Bobby Labonte became a NASCAR premier series champion himself in 2000, making the pair the first brothers to win a title in the top division. Terry Labonte continued fulltime with the Hendrick team through the 2004 season, winning for the final time at Darlington in 2003. He continued to race on a part-time basis, calling it an 890-race career at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 19, 2014. Labonte has said his two favorite victories were those in his home state -- at Texas Motor Speedway . But he may be better-remembered for a pair of slam-bang races at Bristol battling the late Earnhardt. In 1995, Labonte won a final-lap duel despite a shove by Earnhardt that sent his car into the wall. Fast-forward to 1999, when Earnhardt spun and wrecked Labonte on the final lap and famously said in Victory Lane, he was "just trying to rattle his cage." The driver -- and his fans -- were livid, but Labonte admitted 15 years later in a Popular Speed Magazine interview that he was at least partially to blame for the ruckus. "If I had gotten into the corner at a better angle then he wouldn't have got the chance to hit me. But I was passing him low and couldn't carry the speed into the corner and he took advantage of it," Labonte said. "I don't think he really intended to wreck me. He wanted to move me out of the way. That was his only shot. I had four new tires and he didn't. "It was just one of those deals." Labonte is a member of the National Quarter Midget Hall of Fame and in 1998 was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.