Mari Hulman George, the "quiet pioneer" of auto racing who ordered drivers to start their engines and was instrumental in the expansion of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, died Saturday. She was 83, the AP reports. 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," says Tony George, current chairman of IMS. "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 IMS chairman 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. Born Dec. 26, 1934, in Evansville as Mary Antonia Hulman, she never ventured far from Indiana. 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 animal care. "Racing is filled with passionate people, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate than Mari Hulman George," says Tony Stewart, an Indiana native who grew up idolizing the Indy 500 and the speedway. (In-N-Out's billionaire president is married to a race-car driver.)