Your Town Friday: Al Unser Jr remembers Mari Hulman George in Speedway

Speedway, Ind. - It was this week back in 1945 when Tony Hulman bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for $750,000.

His daughter Mari was 11-years-old at the time.

Mari Hulman George was there from start, and through the days that as a woman, she wasn't even allowed in pit lane, to 2018, when the Indy 500 had secured its place as the biggest one day sporting event in the world.

She passed away at the age of 83 earlier this month.

The world knew Mari from those famous words, "Gentleman, start your engines!"

Her inner circle knew her heart.

"She was just a wonderful lady," said Al Unser Jr. "She always welcomed me with open arms and a hug and a kiss. She was a very special lady."

Al Unser Jr. wore the wreath and drank the milk two times at IMS. He remembers the day he met Mari.

"I met her my rookie year in 1983. When her father passed in ’77, it was the 80's and early 90's that she was in charge of the Speedway and that was the heyday of our popularity. She was definitely an icon of our industry."

She certainly meant the world to the racing world. But her commitment outside the oval was just as strong.

For example, she raised more than $1.5 million for Special Olympics over the years.

"The Hulman George family is like that. They appreciate everyone. What I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been here, there’s nobody more special than anybody else."

Today, Al cherishes his final memory with Mari, at the movie theater with her son Tony back in May.

"Tony invited me to go a Steve McQueen showing and so I was with Mary that evening and it was special, very special."

"She had a true love for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She had a true love for the participants, the fans, and everyone involved with the Speedway and whenever I would walk up to her and say hi to her, that is what I got from her. She was just so appreciate of everyone."