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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Sports car racing's John Bishop, co-founder of the International Motor Sports Association, has died. He was 87.

Bishop died Thursday in San Rafael, California, of complications from a recent illness, according to a release from the sports car sanctioning organization.

Bishop co-founded IMSA in 1969 with wife Peggy and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. after a surprise telephone "cold call" from France.

"Bill said he thought there was a need for a new organization, and that he thought I might be the person to run it," Bishop said in a recent interview. "Peggy and I didn't know what we were getting ourselves into."

With France's financial assistance, Bishop, an experienced official with the Sports Car Club of America, and his wife built IMSA into a premier sports car organization that peaked in the 1980s and 1990s with the Camel-sponsored GT Series.

Bishop sold IMSA in 1989, in part due to health issues, but remained a vital part of sports car racing with a lengthy tenure as commissioner of Grand-AM.

"John's passing evokes grand memories of another era of sports car racing in North America," said IMSA chairman Jim France, son of Bill France Sr. "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."

Funeral arrangements are pending for Bishop, who will be inducted posthumously into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in August.

The family is asking that donations in Bishop's honor be made to the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen, New York.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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