IMSA co-founder John Bishop passes away at 87

1 Comment

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…

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

Leave a comment

Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.