Charger 500 in the shop. Note the flush grille, unique to Charger 500's.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, if the golden age of muscle cars was 1968-72, then we think the same could be said for NASCAR and Trans Am. We absolutely drool over these kinds of race cars because, well, they’re real cars! We’re not naive enough to think that they weren’t still purpose built and massaged race cars just as they are today, but there is no doubt they had a lot more in relation to their showroom cousins that the cars of today. We think that ’68 and ’69 Chargers, Charger 500’s, and Daytona’s in particular are some of the best examples of the coolest era in NASCAR history.
That's right folks, NASCAR used to run on dirt. Bobby Isaac is in the 71. David Pearson is in the 17.
We recently came across a terrific website that details the history of the K&K Insurance Team and it’s worth a read. K&K was a powerhouse Dodge team and we’re sure that you’ve seen their cars in any archival NASCAR footage. K&K had a short but storied entrance into NASCAR and existed between 1966 and 1978.
Crew Chief Harry Hyde (right) peers down a row of race HEMI's.
Founded by Nord Krauskop, owner of K&K Insurance, had Bobby Isaac (and several other famous racers) behind the wheel, and the crew chief was none other that Harry Hyde himself. They raced regular ’68 Chargers in 1968, but found that they weren’t areo competitive and reverted back to their ’67’s on the speedways as they were found to be a little slicker.
In 1969, they switched to the more aerodynamic Charger 500, and Bobby Isaac was ripping up the short tracks with it. Unfortunately, it’s flush-mounted grille and tunneled rear window wasn’t slippery enough to give it the edge over the Ford guys. Chrysler engineers needed something more, and the the Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird were born.
These cars would essentially take the formula of the Charger 500 but add a bullet shaped nose to slice the wind and a huge rear spoiler to create enough downforce to keep the tail on the ground. Some say the spoiler was as tall as it was simply to clear enough room to open the trunk lid!
From the history of the K&K Racing Team article the tale of the introduction of the Daytona at Talladega was told, “The Daytona would be introduced in the 1969 Talladega 500 at the Alabama International Motor Speedway, a track constructed and owned by the France family of NASCAR. Talladega was the longest and most steeply banked track in the nation. Unfortunately, the Daytona’s debut was marred by a boycott of the race by most of the top NASCAR drivers. Many racers were concerned for their safety, as the new track was both wicked fast and really rough, chewing up tires like a wood chipper.
Bobby Isaac in his '68 Charger. It looks spectacular, but with it's inset grille and tunneled rear window is was no match for the other more aerodynamic cars. Dodge would remedy that with the Daytona.
“Bobby Isaac was the only top driver to compete in the event, starting his Daytona on the outside of the front row along side Richard Brickhouse, who had replaced Charlie Glotzbach in the purple #99 Daytona. Brickhouse won the event; Isaac placed fourth, battling tire problems all day. But the Daytona did serve notice to the Ford and Mercury drivers that Mopar was through getting kicked around on the big tracks.”
Over the remainder of the 1969 season Bobby Isaac picked up four more short-track wins and got his only win in a Dodge Daytona at the new 2-mile Texas World Speedway. The team had 17 victories that season and held 20 pole positions, a record that has yet to be broken. Unfortunately, even with all of that success, they only finished 6th place in the Championship standings. The K&K team would have even more success in the future!
Bobby Isaac in the first run of his '69 Daytona at Talladega. Image: The History of the K&K Insurance Racing Team
As a side note, the crew chief named “Harry Hogge” portrayed by Robert Duvall in the 1990 movie Days of Thunder was based entirely on Harry Hyde. Hyde would work with another startup powerhouse team in the ’80’s with a new car owner named Rick Hendrick. Hendrick would have a great deal to do with the making of the movie Days of Thunder.