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…

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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