At 16 years old, the biggest fear of most kids is accidentally trading a bit of paint with another car.
For Joshua Bishop, that’s just another weekend on the racetrack.
Bishop has been racing go-karts for years, but at the beginning of 2013 – while still just 15 years old – he made the leap into running limited late model cars on dirt tracks. Bishop is going up against some drivers that are nearly twice his age, but he has found early success with plenty of competitive showings and a win in his nine races so far.
On Saturday, Bishop heads to the Screven Motor Speedway with a $7,500 purse up for grabs.
“I’ve always loved racing,” Bishop said. “My grandfather has done it forever, so I grew up around racetracks. It can be pretty difficult and a little scary to learn how to handle the car and adjust to each track, but I really like it and I think I’m getting better with each race.”
Beginning with his first race in January, Bishop has travelled around the middle of the state to participate in races. The competition ranges from hobbyists to serious professionals – Tony Stewart is a regular at Screven’s February race – but Bishop maintains a desire to win every time his tires hit the dirt.
While taking in a race from the bleachers is a popular tradition in the area, the act of competing in the events year-round can be a pricey one. Without the endorsements and multi-million dollar backing from teams that drives NASCAR, carting a car around the state or making repairs to damaged parts can get expensive in a hurry.
Luckily, one thing that these late model racers have in common with the highest ranks of auto racing is the sponsorships.
“We have some great sponsors like Pope Construction that really help us out,” Joshua’s father, Chris Bishop, said. “As much as we enjoy racing and as long as we’ve done it, the money that you have to put into it never gets any cheaper.
“By having a few sponsors that can help us with keeping everything running smoothly, it helps to just focus on the racing.”
Joshua raced on and off throughout the spring in between playing for the Bulloch Academy baseball team. With the season finished and school out for the summer, he is expecting to ramp up his schedule.
Most youth athletes who have shown promise in their sport spend their high school years searching for competitive travel teams to play on, hoping that the right scout or recruiter will take notice. Auto racing has no collegiate equivalent to bridge the gap from the youth to the professional ranks which makes building a career off of the sport even more challenging.
The Bishops aren’t banking on a high-profile racing career, but with a solid background and a good start to a promising young career, nothing is out of the question.
“I definitely want to keep racing for a long time,” Joshua Bishop said. “It takes a lot of skill and commitment to keep moving forward in this sport. I just love racing and we’ll see how far we can go.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.