Mari Hulman George, who was instrumental in the expansion of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and became known to millions of fans over the years as the one who ordered countless drivers to start their engines before races, died Nov. 3 in Indianapolis. She was 83.
Her family announced the death but did not disclose details. Her son, Tony George, is chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
Mrs. George was IMS chairman from 1988 to 2016 and was emeritus chairman at her death. Her father, Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., purchased the speedway in 1945 and saved it from demolition after World War II. Racing and the facility became a staple of Mrs. Hulman George’s life.
She was immersed in auto racing and became friends with many drivers during her teenage and early adult years. She joined with longtime family friend Roger Wolcott to form the HOW racing team, which fielded AAA and United States Auto Club (USAC) Sprint and National Championship cars for several drivers, including Jerry Hoyt, Eddie Sachs, Tony Bettenhausen, Roger McCluskey and Elmer George, whom she married in 1957.
George won the Midwest Sprint Car title in 1957 and finished third in 1956 and 1958. Mrs. Hulman George also co-owned an Indianapolis 500 entry in 1962 and 1963 that her husband drove. He finished a career-best 17th in 1962 and received relief help from Paul Russo and A.J. Foyt during that race.
Mary Antonia Hulman was born in Evansville, Ind., on Dec. 26, 1934. She attended Purdue University and was an Indianapolis community leader with her stewardship of the speedway.
She launched numerous philanthropic efforts, including benefits for Indiana Special Olympics and complimentary field trips for Indiana’s schoolchildren. She focused on the arts, health care and, in particular, animal care. She served on the board for Hulman & Co., IMS and the IMS Foundation, as well as First Financial Bank, a publicly traded company headquartered in Terre Haute, Ind.
Mrs. Hulman George was especially close to four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Foyt, whom she met a year before his 1958 Indianapolis 500 debut. She and Foyt placed a commemorative “golden brick” into the famous “Yard of Bricks” start-finish line in May 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Indianapolis 500 and the 50th anniversary of Foyt’s 1961 victory.
Mrs. Hulman George for years hosted two events during the lead-in to the Indianapolis 500. The Racers Party took place annually on the opening weekend of the “Month of May” for the entrants of the Indy 500, and a Friends of the 50s and 60s event was held the week between qualifying and the race to celebrate with racing veterans.
She welcomed all drivers to the parties, setting a standard for providing red carpet treatment to all past and present Indianapolis 500 competitors when they came to the track regardless of their stature with the public.
Her husband died in 1976. Survivors include a longtime companion, Guy Trollinger; four children from her marriage; a stepdaughter; seven grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
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