Thursday 27th October 1977
Tony Hulman passed away in Indianapolis, Indiana after 32 years of presiding over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hulman purchased 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. His family took on the responsibility of preserving his vision and the heritage of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Hulman’s wife, Mary Fendrich Hulman, became chairman of the board, while longtime family friend Joseph R. Cloutier was named president.