In 1952, Nord Krauskopf and his wife Theodora (Teddie) started an insurance company in Fort Wayne, Indiana to market a benevolent fund for insured race car drivers. Over the years, the company has grown into the industry leader in insurance coverage for the motorsport industry. But back in the 1960s, K&K Insurance also acted as a sponsor and participant in NASCAR’s premier division.
The team’s first race was at Daytona in February 1966 with Gordon Johncock behind the wheel. Johncock dropped an engine in the Daytona 500 then drove the car at Atlanta. Later, on April 30, 1966 in the Rebel 400 at Darlington with a driver named Earl Balmer behind the wheel of the K&K Dodge and a crew chief who was to become a legend in NASCAR, Harry Hyde the team qualified third but retired with a hole in the oil pan. Balmer drove the K&K Dodge in seven cup events with his best finish a fifth.
In 1967, the team had a new driver, one who would become synonymous with the K&K Dodge, Catawba, North Carolina’s Bobby Isaac. The team once again raced a limited schedule entering only eleven Cup events with Isaac, who finished second at Charlotte in the fall to another Dodge, the Ray Fox entry driven by Buddy Baker. Bobby Allison, Charlie Glotzbach and Sam McQuagg also tried their hand at driving the K&K Dodge that year.
In 1968, things started to take shape for the K&K Dodge team. The team with Isaac as the driver ran all 49 Cup races. The team’s first win came on April 18, 1968 at the half-mile dirt track at Columbia, South Carolina. Isaac passed pole sitter Richard Petty on the 15th lap and led the rest of way in the 200-lap affair taking home a whopping $1,000.
Later, he backed up that win with a 250-lap feature win on the half-mile paved track at Augusta, Georgia and then late in the season won a 300-lap on another half-mile paved track at Beltsville, Maryland. On the season racing in 49 NASCAR events the team posted three poles, three wins, 27 top fives, finished second in points to David Pearson and won a total of $60,341.50.
In 1969, the team leaped forward posting an incredible record. In racing in 50 of the series 54 events, they posted 19 poles, 17 wins, 29 top fives, and 33 top tens. Ironically, they finished but sixth in NASCAR Grand National points that year with none of the three teams that finished third, fourth and fifth posting wins. 1969 was also the year that Bill France opened Talladega, to a boycott of most drivers but Isaac competed in the event and was of the five Mopar cars that finished in the first five positions.
After winning a 125 qualifier at Daytona, Isaac was taken out of the Daytona 500 when slower cars trapped him behind them and he was hit from behind by Richard Petty. On April 3, Isaac posted his first points win of the season at Columbia, South Carolina then backed it up by winning the next two races at Hickory, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina.
After failing to finish in the next three events, Isaac won at Asheville-Weaverville, North Carolina. “I have fallen out of every race since I last won at Greenville,” commented Isaac in Victory Lane. “Not only am I glad to win. Heck I’m just glad to finish.”
While Isaac had trouble on the Super Speedways dropping out at Darlington with steering problems and losing an engine at Charlotte in the World 600, he continued to win on the short tracks. He won on four half mile tracks (Beltsville, Maryland, Macon, Georgia, Maryville, Tennessee and again at Greenville, South Carolina).
After a 12 race winless streak Isaac won on the .375 mile oval of South Boston, Virginia and then two races later performed a miracle coming from five laps down to win by four laps on the half mile at Asheville-Weaverville, North Carolina.
Isaac finished out the season with short track successes at Hickory, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Savannah, Augusta and Jefferson. Georgia. Then on the last race of the season at the two mile oval of Texas International Speedway, Isaac broke through and won a super speedway. “I’ve been trying since 1963 to win a big race.” Said Isaac. “I’ve been close many times. This is the greatest day of my life.”
1970 was an interesting year in NASCAR and for the K&K Insurance racing team. It was the year of the Superbird, it was the year that Bobby Isaac and K&K Dodge won the ultimate prize and was crowned NASCAR Champions. But it was also a year of frustration for the team when at years end Chrysler announced it was cutting back its racing effort and the K&K Insurance team was left out in the cold.
It took Isaac until the 14th race of the season to post a win, once again at Beltville, Maryland but with the win he took the point lead. He backed that win by winning the next race at Hampton, Virginia and then two races later at Maryville, Tennessee and Martinsville, Virginia. Later came wins at two more Isaac mainstays Hickory, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina.
Following a bit of a slump the K&K team scored a win up north at Thompson, Connecticut allowing Isaac to tie James Hylton for the point lead and comment “I think the point system could use some revising. I don’t like a point system that rewards a “stroker.”
On July 25, the team won at the Nashville Fairgrounds in the “Nashville 420” leading the last 211 laps. Because of a lack of testing the track caused severe tire problems. “I just cooled it. Harry (Hyde, crew chief) and I decided to run cautiously when we heard about this track. The only time I ran hard was in qualifying.” commented Isaac.
A win on the half mile dirt track at Columbia, South Carolina and then back at his old mainstay Hickory kept Isaac out front in the point race. Then on race 43 of the season they team won a thriller at North Wilkesboro.
“I lost a lap while pitting under the yellow with less than 100 laps to go.” Said Isaac. “The jack sank in the pavement we lost a lap.” Then with 25 laps to go when the caution waved Crew Chief Harry Hyde elected to pit and put on soft tires. “We didn’t have any idea if the soft compound would work.” stated Isaac. “But it was our only chance to beat Petty.” With 12 laps to go Isaac passed Petty and took home another win.
As the season wound down the team made sure they did what they had to and stay on top. At Rockingham, North Carolina in the next to last race of the season Isaac started fifth and cruised to a seventh place finish. “I wasn’t worried about how many laps I was behind. I just wanted to run fast enough to stay behind the factory teams and ahead of the independents. I wanted to make sure we finished and wrapped up the championship.” said Isaac. “I hate to stroke but it was worth it.”
As the checkered flag fell on the 1970 NASCAR season, the K&K Insurance Dodge set at the top of the standing with 3,911 points, 51 more than runner-up Bobby Allison. The team posted 11 wins, 32 top-fives and 38 top-tens in securing the championship for Chrysler.
With Chrysler dropping support of the K&K team, owner Nord Krauskopf sent the team to Talladega with orders to set a new all-time closed record. On November 24 with a howling wind and temperature in the 30’s they did just that posting a record of 201.104 mph.
In September 1971 with the Superbird banned by NASCAR Krauskopf sent the team to the Bonneville Salt Flats where they set 28 speed records with a banned race car and lots of beer. Seems K&K team members Harry Hyde and Buddy Parrott. Seems the two found that drilling holes in the sand to mark the course went better when drinking beer.
As for the team’s future in NASCAR they ran a part time schedule in 1971 winning four of the 25 races they competed in. In 1972, the team posted but two wins, one with Isaac and one with Buddy Baker. Baker drove the car in 1973 posting two wins.
In 1974, the team ran a number of races with several different drivers and little success. In 1975, it was Dave Marcis behind the wheel they won once in ’75 and then had three wins in ’76. Neil Bonnet took over the driving in 1977 and the team did not have a lot of success. Then Krauskopf sold the team to JD Stacy and the K&K Insurance Dodge was history.
As for the main players, Bobby Isaac left the team in late 1972. He continued to race in the Cup series through 1976. Ironically, he passed away On August 13, 1977 after exciting his race car during a 200-lap late model sportsman race at Hickory, North Carolina. Cause of death was a heart attack caused by heat exhaustion. During his Cup career Isaac posted 48 poles and won 37 races.
In May 1977, Krauskopf sold the K&K Insurance racing team to JD Stacy. The K&K Insurance company was sold in 1993 to Aon oic and continues to operate under the K&K name. Harry Hyde stayed on as a crew chief after J.D. Stacy bought the team and continued as a NASCAR crew chief through 1993. In his career his teams posted 55 wins and 90 poles. Hyde was the inspiration for Robert Duvall’s character Harry Hogge in the movie “Days of the Thunder.”