Tony and Mary Hulman

Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr. (February 11, 1901 – October 27, 1977) was a businessman from Terre Haute, Indiana who bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1945 and brought racing back to the famous race course after a four-year hiatus following World War II. Hulman bought the dilapidated Indianapolis Motor Speedway from a group led by World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker immediately after World War II. Influenced by three-time Indy 500 winner Wilbur Shaw (who became the track’s president in the early years of the Hulman regime), Hulman made numerous improvements to the track in time for the race to be held in 1946. Following Shaw’s death in a plane crash on October 30, 1954, Hulman stepped into his soon-to-be-familiar role as the “face” of the Speedway. He followed the tradition of launching the Indianapolis 500 with the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Into the 1970s, despite the fact he’d given the command so many times before, he would always practice it extensively beforehand, and on race day, he would invariably pull a card containing the famous words: “GENNNNNTLEMENNNNN, STARRRRRT YOURRRRRR ENNNNNNNGINES!” from the pocket of his suit as he stepped to the microphone. Luke Walton, who with Wilbur Shaw had founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, was for many years a sportscaster and worked annually with Hulman (and later with Mrs. Hulman) to ensure each word was delivered with the proper emphasis.

Hulman married Mary Fendrich, the daughter of Fendrich Cigar Company owner John H. Fendrich, in 1926. Their first child, a daughter named Mary, died just hours after her birth in 1930. In 1934, the couple’s second daughter, also named Mary, but better known as “Mari”, was born. Mari would later give Hulman and Mary four grandchildren. Their sole grandson, Anton Hulman “Tony” George, would carry on the family’s racing and business traditions.

Mary Fendrich Hulman (March 13, 1905 – April 10, 1998) was the wife of the late Indiana industrialist Anton “Tony” Hulman, Jr. and matriarch of the Hulman-George family which today controls Hulman & Company, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR.
Born in Evansville, Indiana, Mary was the daughter of prominent Fendrich Cigar Company president John H. Fendrich (1867–1952) and Nettie Buttriss Fendrich (1875–1975). The Fendrich family was among Evansville’s most prominent Catholic families; Mary attended Catholic schools for her education.

When Tony Hulman died on October 27, 1977, many wondered what role Mary would choose for herself. With such a large empire to oversee, the possibilities were many, but some felt that she would turn over day to day control to others. But that wasn’t Mary’s way. Picking up the reins with both hands, she became the chairman of both the Speedway and Hulman & Co., which surprised some observers. At the 1978 Indianapolis 500, she even took over Tony’s traditional role, delivering for the first time the famous call of “Gentlemen, start your engines!” She would continue to give the command (with few exceptions, when daughter Mari delivered it) through 1996. Wikipedia

1977 Indy 500, the final time Tony Hulman “gave the command” (with broadcast legends Jim Phillippe & Luke Walton) Twitter: Steve H. Shunck SHUNCK

Tony and Mary Hulman Video Gallery

Tony Hulman: The Man Who Saved The Indianapolis Motor Speedway by Sigur E. Whitaker

About the Book:
Almost unknown when in 1945 he purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its famous race, Tony Hulman soon became a household name in auto racing circles. He is credited not only with saving the Speedway from becoming a residential housing development but also with re-invigorating auto racing in the United States. Until his purchase of the Speedway, Hulman had not been involved in auto racing; he was the CEO of Hulman & Company, a wholesale grocer. An astute businessman, Hulman made Clabber Girl Baking Powder a national brand and successfully led the reorientation of the family fortunes to include a range of businesses including a beer company, a Coca-Cola franchise, a broadcast empire, and real estate and gas companies.

This biography of Hulman covers his many ventures, particularly the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indianapolis 500, and his philanthropy.

About the Author:
A native of Indianapolis, Sigur E. Whitaker, is the great-great-niece of James Allison, one of the founders of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A retired banker, she lives in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Nov. 15, 1945, IndyStar announces the purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo: IndyStar

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