One of the first things I do after I wake up in the morning is check social media. Saturday morning the first thing on my Twitter timeline was the notice of the death of Mari Hulman George. It was hard to believe. I knew she was ill, but that didn’t make the news less of a shock.
Although she had not been an active member of the board for a couple of years, I’m sure her influence was still being felt. Many drivers have praised her selflessness and kindness. She let Parnelli Jones drive her car at Trenton when his car had a problem during practice. Jones finished second. A. J. Foyt spent many Christmases with Mari and her family.
I was most familiar with her through her work with greyhound rescue. I fostered and adopted greyhounds from a different group, but her group, USA Dog, also had a presence at shows where we had information booths our hounds. I remember ads for greyhound rescue in the Indianapolis 500 programs in the ’90’s. She was instrumental in bringing the Mutt Strut to the track as well.
How will things change at the Speedway? There probably won’t be many changes noticeable on a day to day basis. There are things that will change, one has already happened. First, all drivers, past and present, have lost a great friend and advocate. Second, we will likely not hear the name Hulman mentioned in connection with anybody again. While it is Tony’ middle name, no one refers to him with his middle name. Third, the thing that makes me most sad, is that we may never hear the race started with “Gentlemen, Start your Engines” again. The 100th running of the 500 was the last time the race began with those words. Mari, accompanied by her family gave the command in unison. Tony Hulman the last two years has given the pedestrian “Drivers, start your engines,” a weak command to begin the Indianapolis 500.
The Hulman family has owned the Speedway for seventy three years as of next Friday. The third generation is now completely in charge. My hope is that they follow the examples and high bars set by their grandfather and mother.