Mari Hul­man Ge­orge, the “quiet pi­o­neer” of auto rac­ing who or­dered Indy 500 driv­ers to start their en­gines, dies.

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Jenna Fryer Jenna Fryer is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

Mari Hul­man Ge­orge, the “quiet pi­o­neer” of auto rac­ing who or­dered driv­ers to start their en­gines and was in­stru­men­tal in the ex­pan­sion of the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way, died Satur­day. She was 83.

Hul­man Ge­orge, the speed­way’s chair­man of the board emer­i­tus, died in In­di­anapo­lis with her fam­ily at her side, the speed­way said in a state­ment.

“Our mother was such a unique, won­der­ful per­son. She loved her fam­ily, friends, auto rac­ing and an­i­mals with equal pas­sion,” said Tony Ge­orge, cur­rent chair­man of the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way. “She was a quiet pi­o­neer in so many ways, from own­ing a race team in the 1950s and 1960s to over­see­ing a pe­riod of tremen­dous growth and evo­lu­tion while chair­man of the board at IMS.” Hul­man Ge­orge was the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way chair­woman from 1988 through 2016. 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 Mari Hul­man Ge­orge’s life.

In­di­anapo­lis fans rec­og­nized Hul­man Ge­orge as the in­di­vid­ual who gave the com­mand to start en­gines for the In­di­anapo­lis 500 and Brick­yard 400 from the late 1990s un­til 2015.

“She was known by mil­lions as the woman who gave the com­mand to start en­gines for the In­di­anapo­lis 500 and other events at the Speed­way, but her true legacy will be the gen­er­ous and kind phi­lan­thropy she learned from her par­ents,” Ge­orge said. “That com­pas­sion and de­sire to help peo­ple and an­i­mals ev­ery day are the true hall­marks of her in­cred­i­ble life.” Hul­man Ge­orge 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 Amer­i­can Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion and United States Auto Club 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.

Mari Hul­man Ge­orge 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.

“Rac­ing is filled with pas­sion­ate peo­ple, but you’d be hard pressed to find any­one more pas­sion­ate than Mari Hul­man Ge­orge,” said Tony Stew­art, an In­di­ana na­tive who grew up idol­iz­ing the Indy 500 and the speed­way.

Born Dec. 26, 1934 in Evansville as Mary An­to­nia Hul­man, she never ven­tured far from In­di­ana. Hul­man Ge­orge 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 & Com­pany, IMS and the IMS Foun­da­tion, as well as First Fi­nan­cial Bank, a pub­licly traded com­pany head­quar­tered in Terre Haute. Hul­man Ge­orge was es­pe­cially close to four­time 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” startfin­ish line in May 2011 to cel­e­brate the 100th an­niver­sary of the in­au­gu­ral In­di­anapo­lis 500 and the 50th an­niver­sary of Foyt’s 1961 vic­tory.

She hosted for years 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.

“Mrs. Ge­orge was com­mit­ted to the longterm health of the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way as a trea­sured In­di­ana as­set,” said J. Dou­glas Boles, pres­i­dent of the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way.

In ad­di­tion to son Tony Ge­orge, she is sur­vived by three daugh­ters, a step­daugh­ter, seven grand­chil­dren, nine great­grand­chil­dren and long­time com­pan­ion Guy Trollinger. She was pre­ceded in death by her hus­band, Elmer, and a step­son.

Dar­ron Cum­mings / As­so­ci­ated Press 2009

Mari Hul­man Ge­orge, chair­woman of the board of the In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way, gives the com­mand for rac­ers to start their en­gines in May 2009.

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