IMSA has confirmed that one of its co-founders, John Bishop, passed away yesterday at the age of 87 in San Rafael, California due to “complications from a recent illness.”
Bishop, who is to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in August, founded IMSA in 1969 alongside his wife, Peggy (who died last year), and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.
He sold IMSA in 1989 due to health issues but stayed active in the sports car world afterwards with a lengthy stint as commissioner of GRAND-AM, which has since merged with the American Le Mans Series to form the current TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Current IMSA chairman Jim France has hailed Bishop in the following statement:
John’s passing evokes grand memories of another era of sports car racing in North America. We are thankful that John lived to see IMSA sanctioning the new unified sports car series and guiding a new era. We have lost a man who, once upon a time, was a sports car pioneer. Over the years, he became a giant in our industry. And now, he will forever be a legend.
John and Peggy were especially close to my parents. They had a relationship that transcended their business dealings. Our family was always proud simply to know the Bishops. Having the honor to partner with them in forming IMSA was a bonus.
As for Bishop’s son, Mitch, he said that while his father loved racing, he loved most of all the people involved in the sport and “writing the competition rules in an effort to bring everyone together.”
“I always remember something driver Pete Halsmer said about my dad,” said Mitch, “that by building IMSA, he had allowed a lot of people to make a living doing something that they loved.”
Before earning his Hall of Fame nod in January, Bishop recalled the story of how he first teamed up with Bill Sr. to form IMSA after his career in the Sports Car Club of America had come to a close.
After receiving a phone call from Bill Sr., Bishop headed down to Daytona Beach to meet him face to face. In that meeting, he was pitched on the idea of a new sanctioning body for sports car racing.
“We talked a lot … and drank a lot of scotch,” Bishop said. “Bill said that with so many race tracks being built, he didn’t think the current sports car sanctioning bodies could handle it.
“He said, ‘You ought to think about setting up a new organization, and if you do decide to do that, let me know and I’ll help you if I can.’ When I got home, I talked to Peggy.
“We had no idea how much work it was to set up a new organization. But we did it, with Bill’s help, in the middle part of 1969.”
IMSA reports that funeral services for Bishop are pending but that his family asks donations in his honor to be made to the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, New York.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time…