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The Untold Story: Former Champion Bobby Isaac Immediately Quit NASCAR After Hearing Voices

Published 01/30/2023, 11:23 AM EST

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Bobby Isaac is best known for being the 1970 NASCAR Grand National Series champion. He was racing in an era when the safety standards were not as stringent as they are now. There was a time when Isaac voluntarily stepped away from the racing arena.

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Normally, when a driver retires from racing, it is either due to age, injury, or some other external factor. By 1973, the driver had established himself as a top racing driver in the NASCAR Series. Up until that point, he had clinched 37 race wins, including 11 in his title-winning 1970 campaign in the #71 car.

However, in 1973, he was racing for the #15 Bud Moore Engineering team. At that year’s Talladega 500, the 20th race of the season, there were 56,000 spectators in attendance. Meanwhile, 50 drivers were ready to duke it out on the track for the next 500 miles. Admittedly, mixed into all that excitement was a spark of fear and danger.


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Just three months earlier at the same track, there were wrecks that saw drivers getting injured. This included a career-ending injury for Wendell Scott. Naturally, many drivers were getting increasingly nervous.

How did the race unfold for Bobby Isaac?

It is safe to say that the Talladega 500 was an exciting affair, with multiple lead changes and seven cautions. Unfortunately, the track’s notoriety for being dangerous cropped up once again, and the scenario was even worse. Navy veteran and 1972 Rookie of the Year Larry Smith was the unfortunate victim.


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When he arrived on the scene, he was largely dependent on sponsors backing his drive, much like in the modern era. At the time, he had competed in 38 races over a span of three years.


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Smith was starting 35th on the grid, but during the race, he cut a tire. After struggling for a couple of laps, the inner liner blew up and he was simply a helpless passenger at 180 miles an hour. The impact was strong enough to break his headrest and he died before medical help could reach him. The break resulted in his safety harness getting undone and he hit the dashboard head-first.

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Now, where was Bobby Isaac in all of this? Sometime after the fatal accident, Isaac experienced a strong gut feeling that was urging him to quit. He claimed that during a race, he heard “voices” telling him to stop right away. According to him, the voice said “Get out of the car immediately or he would die.” Bobby Isaac evidently trusted his gut instinct and promptly pitted and got a relief driver to continue in his stead.

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Dhruv George

14103 articles

Dhruv George is a senior Motorsports author for EssentiallySports, having authored nearly 12000 articles spanning different sports like F1, NASCAR, Tennis, NFL, and eSports. He graduated with a PG Diploma in Journalism from the Xavier Institute of Communications. Dhruv has also conducted interviews with F1 driver Pierre Gasly and Moto2 rider Tony Arbolino.

Edited By: Nischal Kandpal