IMSA announced the creation of the Bishop-France Award to honor the class champions in its TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – and the legacy of IMSA founders John Bishop and Bill France Sr.
The inaugural Bishop-France Awards will be presented this evening during the TUDOR Night of Champions postseason celebration at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.
Driver, team and manufacturer champions in the four TUDOR Championship classes – Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona – will receive replicas of a perpetual trophy that will be on display permanently at IMSA headquarters in Daytona Beach.
The perpetual trophy, made of sterling silver, is inscribed with the names of all 288 IMSA class champions dating back to IMSA’s 1969 founding.
Bishop, his wife Peggy and France founded IMSA in an attempt to bring big-league organization to sports car racing in North America – a catalyst reminiscent of what motivated France to create NASCAR in 1947. France had the vision, but needed a partner to complete the concept. He tabbed Bishop, a former longtime Sports Car Club of America official.
Bishop, who died on June 6 at the age of 87, loved to tell the story of receiving a surprise telephone call from France one evening, in 1969.
“Bill wanted me to come to Daytona Beach for a meeting,” Bishop said. “Well, I went down there to talk. We had a lot of scotch and a nice chat.
Bill said that with so many race tracks being built, he didn’t think the sports car sanctioning bodies that were out there 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.”
Bishop sold IMSA in the 1980s but by then his legacy was secure. With the help of his wife Peggy, Bishop had made France’s vision a reality.
As the 2014 season ushered in a new, rejuvenated IMSA headlined by the TUDOR Championship, with the sanctioning body’s headquarters back in the city where it all began, the idea of the Bishop-France Award quickly gained momentum.
“We wanted to establish a perpetual trophy that captured the history of IMSA, going back to when my Dad and John Bishop started the whole thing,” said IMSA Chairman Jim France.
“John and Peggy Bishop, with the help of my Dad and others, really grabbed IMSA up by the bootstraps and got it going all those years ago. They created the high-water mark and now, we’re working to get IMSA back to those glory days … and beyond.”