The racing community is paying tribute to Chairman of the Board Emeritus Mari Hulman George, who passed away Saturday at age 83.
“I was really sorry to hear that Mari passed on,” AJ Foyt said of his friend. “My wife Lucy and I were close friends with Mari and Elmer George, we spent a lot of time together. When I was coming up through the ranks we lived with them two or three summers. We’ve been close for over 60 years. We spent many a Christmas together, our kids are about the same age so we had a lot of wonderful times together.
“She is the one who got me in the horse racing business. She had quarter horses and talked me into buying a horse. I’m still in the horse business. We did a lot of things together and had a lot of fun. She’s going to be dearly missed, especially by me.”
Three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser’s recollections dated back before his first 500 appearance.
“I remember Mari going back to my first Indianapolis 500 in 1963, actually I remember her before that – she loved racing and would come to USAC Sprint Car races and other races around the Midwest before I raced in the 500,” he said. “She was a good friend to me and she was a good friend to all of us in racing, just like her father Tony Hulman. Mari truly had fun and enjoyed being part of the Indy 500 and other events. She also very, very into horses and Greyhounds, her passion away from the track. She was a good person and always had others in mind – her charity work benefited lots and lots of people, something we all admired her for.
“Basically over the years we all grew up together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and shared a lot of fun times and great memories there. We will miss Mari as a racer and true friend.”
Parnelli Jones paid tribute to the woman for whom he once drove.
“I even drove for Mari at Trenton in April of 1963 and finished second — [A.J.] Foyt won and Herk [Jim Hurtubise] was third. I drove Mari’s No.21 HOW Special Champ Dirt car after I broke a driveshaft on my car in practice. That’s when the dirt cars ran as well as the roadsters at Trenton. Mari was always very friendly and very charitable just like her father, Tony.
“She didn’t like the spotlight and preferred to let others do the talking. Mari respected and admired the hard work of the teams, mechanics, owners and drivers; she was a racer. I’ll miss seeing her in May, she was a very special lady.”
Said Alice Hanks, wife of 1957 Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hanks: “I knew Mari as a teenage girl and saw her blossom into a fine young lady and then a lovely woman that always cared for others. She always looked out for everyone and was especially kind to Sam and I when we were at the track. She’d check in with us and if we needed help she would drive us from the Speedway Motel to the garage area and suites.
“Mari was very generous and shared her time with everyone. I’ll miss Mari. I enjoyed seeing her and speaking with her each May.”
“Mari’s devotion to Indianapolis Motor Speedway was only surpassed by her kindness,” Jim France, NASCAR chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “Her tireless philanthropy and her passion for auto racing leave a legacy that touches the lives of millions.
“Mari was a true inspiration to us and her leadership and grace impacted us all. From the France family, all of NASCAR, ISC and IMSA, we send our deepest condolences to the Hulman George family as we mourn her loss.”
Several drivers expressed their thoughts on social media.