The name of Mari Hulman George might not be as well known around the globe as the likes of Rick Mears, AJ Foyt and Al Unser (pictured above with Hulman George), but when it comes to the Indianapolis 500 she was arguably as much if not more of a factor in motorsport in the United States than almost anyone behind the wheel.
That's because for 29 years she was the chairman of Indianapolis Motor Speedway where the Indy 500 is run every May, and it was she who traditionally gave the command to the drivers to start their engines in preparation for the race.
As chairman until 2016, she helped bring NASCAR, Formula 1 and MotoGP events to IMS, and oversaw the development of the SAFER barrier that has revolutionised safety at oval circuits around the world. She was also chairman of Hulman & Company, the parent company that owns and operates the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Sadly Hulman George passed away early this morning at the age of 83, surrounded by her family. She is survived by her son Tony, three daughters, a stepdaughter, seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and longtime companion Guy Trollinger.
"Our mother was such a unique, wonderful person," Tony George said in a statement. "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."
Among those paying their respects on social media was former Indy 500 champion Tony Stewart, who said: "Racing is filled with passionate people, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate than Mari Hulman George. She did so much for motorsports and her community. My heart goes out to the entire Hulman-George family."
AJ Foyt was a particularly close friend, and the pair placed a commemorative “golden brick” into the famous Yard of Bricks start-finish line in May 2011 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Indianapolis 500.