IMSA co-founder John Bishop passes away at 87

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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.

Godspeed, John.

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…

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”