On Sept. 26, 1971, Bobby Isaac, driver of the Nord Krauskopf-owned No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge, led 445 of 500 laps at Martinsville (VA.) Speedway to record his fourth NASCAR Grand National win of the 48-race season.
After posing for photographs in victory lane that fall afternoon, Isaac walked to the press box, then located atop the grandstands in the fourth turn area of the track. The native of Catawba, N.C. sat in one of the reporter’s seats and enjoyed a soft drink as he answered questions about the race as they gathered in a circle around him.
Sports reporters from around the south held note pads and jotted down his every word. The closest to him was Benny Phillips of the High Point Enterprise sitting to his left. A young Steve Waid of the Roanoke News stood in front, while Al Pearce of The Daily Press of Newport News, VA. stood close by wearing a dark sweater. Others crowded around to hear his thoughts on how he dominated the race after starting from the pole position.
They listen to his description of his car, the laps he ran so smoothly, and the key to keeping his bright red Dodge out front until the checkered flag fell, one lap ahead of second-place Bobby Allison in a Holman Moody Ford.
Isaac commented that a perfect chassis setup was needed in order to win on the .526-mile Virgina oval, having taken the lead for the final time of lap 337. The 262.5-mile race was the first race under NASCAR’s new rule which utilized carburetor restrictor sleeves rather than the controversial carburetor restrictor plate.
“You can’t use Martinsville as a true indicator,” Isaac said to the crowd of journalists. “This is strictly a handling track, not a horsepower track. If you handle well here, you run well.”
Pearce remembers today how Isaac talked when interviewed by media members after races. His focus was more on driving instead of the required time NASCAR asked of all drivers when they won races.
“Bobby Isaac was a terrific driver. You could look at his record and tell that,” Pearce said, “At the time he and (crew chief) Harry Hyde were at their best, I think maybe Petty Enterprises and maybe the Wood Brothers were the teams near his class. Bobby and Harry were terrific in that K & K car. I don’t remember everything about Bobby back then, but I do remember him being a little bit uncomfortable in those press settings, sort of like, ‘Let’s get this over with.’ “
In those days, long before the internet and laptops became commonplace, stories were written on typewriters either brought to press boxes by writers covering races or they would be provided by the track public relations director and placed in press boxes. Then the stories were sent by telecopy machines to newspaper offices for publication.
Isaac drove in the Grand National division, now Cup Series, from 1961 until 1976 with 308 starts, 37 wins, 137 top-fives, 170- top-10s and 48 pole positions as well as the 1970 Cup Series championship. Isaac died on Aug. 14, 1977 of a heart attack after driving in a Late Model race at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway. He was 45 years of age at the time of his passing.