IMS Chairman of the Board Emeritus Mari Hulman George dies at 83

Mari Hulman George (L) with Jim Nabors (Image courtesy IndyCar)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Mari Hulman George, chairman of the board emeritus of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, died early Saturday at the age of 83.

IMS said she died with her family by her side.

Hulman George was born in Evansville in 1934 and in 1945, her father Anton "Tony" Hulman, Jr. purchased IMS. That purchase ignited a passion for racing in the young girl.

She started as a racing team owner before she turned 21 and putting cars in the Indianapolis 500 in 1962 and 1963, both driven by her husband Elmer George.

She served as chairman of the board for the Speedway from 1988-2016 and gave the famous command for drivers to start their engines starting in the late 1990s through 2015.

Mari Hulman George with Jim Nabors (Photo: IndyCar)
Mari Hulman George with Jim Nabors (Photo: IndyCar)
Mari Hulman George with Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal. (Photo: IndyCar/Chris Jones)
Mari Hulman George with Dave Calabro before the 2004 Brickyard 400. (Photo: IndyCar/Kay Nichols)
Mari Hulman George hugs her grandson, IndyCar driver and team owner Ed Carpenter. (Photo: IndyCar/Jim Haines)
Mari Hulman George with Florence Henderson (Photo: IndyCar/Jim Haines)
Mari Hulman George with Tom Carnegie (Photo: IndyCar)
Mari Hulman George in 2004 (Photo: IndyCar/Ron McQueeney)
(Photo: IndyCar/Kay Nichols)
Mari Hulman George before the 2012 Indianapolis 500. (Photo: IndyCar/Shawn Gritzmacher)
(Photo: IndyCar/Shawn Payne)
(Photo: IndyCar/Chris Jones)
(Photo: IndyCar/Chris Jones)
(Photo: IndyCar)
Mari Hulman George before the 2005 Indianapolis 500. (Photo: IndyCar/Chris Jones)
(Photo: IndyCar/Dana Garrett)
(Photo: IndyCar/Jim Haines)
(Photo: IndyCar/Dana Garrett)
(Photo: IndyCar/Jessica Hoffman)
Mari Hulman George with her son, IMS Chairman of the Board Tony George (Photo: IndyCar/Dana Garrett)

Hulman George also used her position at the Speedway to launch numerous philanthropic efforts, including benefits for Indiana Special Olympics and complimentary field trips for Indiana's school children.

She is survived by three daughters, Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi George-Conforti; a son, Anton H. “Tony” George; a stepdaughter, Carolyn Coffey; seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and her longtime companion, Guy Trollinger.

Tony George, the current chairman of the board at IMS, released the following statement on behalf of his family:

"Our mother was such a unique, wonderful person. She loved her family, friends, auto racing and animals with equal passion. 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. 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. That compassion and desire to help people and animals every day are the true hallmarks of her incredible life. We love her deeply and will miss her every day, while ensuring that her spirit and generosity live forever at IMS."

J. Douglas Boles, president of IMS:

"The Hulman family's legacy will be felt for generations across Indiana. And, Mari Hulman George's continuation of the family's community leadership, giving spirit and compassion defines well the family and its Hoosier heritage. Mrs. George was committed to the long-term health of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a treasured Indiana asset, and her stewardship as chairman set the tone for staff and others involved with IMS. We were most impacted by her charitable heart and dedication to causes and organizations that made a difference to our community. While she will be missed deeply by fans, staff, friends and family, her presence and impact will be felt at IMS and across Indiana for years to come."

Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company:

"Mari Hulman George was one of the nicest, most gentle people you would ever meet, but she also was an incredibly influential leader in American motorsports and the state of Indiana for the last 60 years. She combined a true passion for auto racing with a common, human touch toward all, especially drivers and fans. Generations of Hoosiers have benefited from her tireless charitable work, and her commitment to animal care is exemplary and a mirror of her kindness. We extend our sincere condolences to the entire Hulman-George family and will miss her greatly."

"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.

Funeral arrangements are pending. IMS said the arrangements have been entrusted to Callahan & Hughes Funeral Home in Terre Haute.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)