John and Peggy Bishop (photo courtesy ISC Images & Archives)
International Motor Sports association co-founder Peggy Bishop died on Tuesday night after losing her fight with a recent illness. She is survived by her husband John, who presided over IMSA during its greatest years, and her son, Mitchell.
Mrs. Bishop was a nurse by trade, and served as IMSA’s registrar, head of administration, handled licensing and was regarded as a mother to all those who worked or competed in the series.
The Bishops, along with NASCAR’s Bill France Sr. established the IMSA series in 1969, developing the sports car series from its initial presence as a place for small production-based cars to compete in its “Baby Grand National” series into the premier North American prototype and GT racing sanctioning body through the 1980s and early 1990s.
With its flagship IMSA GTP cars rivaling the CART Indy car series for attendance and television ratings at its peak, IMSA was hit with a decline in entries and interest as the 1990s wore on. The Bishops sold their stake in the series before the decline, and IMSA then changed hands on a regular basis until Don Panoz purchased and relaunched the brand under the American Le Mans Series banner.
43 years after helping to create IMSA with the Bishops, France’s son Jim orchestrated a deal with Panoz to purchase the series in 2012. A new, blended series featuring ALMS and Grand-Am, under the sanction of IMSA, will debut in 2014.
Jim France offered his thoughts on the passing of the sports car racing pioneer.
“On behalf of IMSA, Grand-Am, the American Le Mans Series and NASCAR, I want to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of Peggy Bishop, who passed away last night,” he said. “Peggy and her husband John have long been a part of our extended family, especially as it pertains to sports cars. The Bishops and my father, Bill France Sr., founded the International Motor Sports Association in 1969 and our two families have remained close ever since. Our thoughts and prayers are with John and his family.”
Racing legend Dan Gurney won multiple IMSA championships with his All American Racers team, and expressed great fondness for the late Mrs. Bishop.
“She was a very pleasant and encouraging personality,” he said on Wednesday. “We were a part of John and Peggy’s family when we raced in IMSA, and she was the den mother of the entire series. We will certainly miss her.”
RACER founder and President Paul Pfanner also shared his condolences for Mrs. Bishop on behalf of the company.
“Peggy was by her husband’s side creating the model for modern professional road racing series, and we’ve all be thankful for what the IMSA series became and how it has continued on today with the American Le Mans Series,” he said. “Her spirit will continue to live on in the United SportsCar Racing championship for years to come.”