Tony George

Last updated
Tony George in May 2007 TonyGeorgeMay2007.jpg
Tony George in May 2007
Tony George at the 2007 Indianapolis 500 TonyGeorge.JPG
Tony George at the 2007 Indianapolis 500

Anton Hulman "Tony" George (born December 30, 1959) was the Chairman, President, and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hulman & Company, serving from 1989 to 2009. He was also formerly on the Board of Directors of both entities. He founded the Indy Racing League and co-owned Vision Racing.


Tony George's grandfather, Tony Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the end of World War II. George is a former driver, having competed in the 1989 Indy Lights championship, finishing 12th in points and capturing 5 top-tens. His mother (Tony Hulman's daughter), Mari Hulman George (1934-2018), formerly served as the speedway's Chairman and delivers its famed "ladies and gentlemen, start your engines" public address before every Indianapolis 500 from 1997-2015 and the Brickyard 400 from 1997, 1999-2015. He delivered the command for the 2017-2019 Indy 500s.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Leadership

Tony George became president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation after the death of Joe Cloutier in 1989.

During his first few years as Speedway head, he oversaw new projects such as an infield road-circuit, Tower Terrace Suites, pit lane reconstruction (including the addition of a warm-up lane requested by many influential Speedway alumni), and a control tower.

Before George's arrival, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (or "the Speedway") traditionally had only one race: the Indianapolis 500. He changed that with the announcement that a NASCAR race would be held at the Speedway. The Brickyard 400 made its debut on August 6, 1994, with Jeff Gordon taking the checkered flag. Many Indianapolis purists despise stock car racing at the most famous circuit in North American open-wheel lore. Some fans believe the configuration of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as well as the diamond cutting of the track surface makes it a poor facility for stock car racing, traditionally exhibited on high banked ovals.

In 1998, the IROC series came to the track, to little fanfare, and less success.

Later, George helped bring Formula One back to the U.S. with the United States Grand Prix held at the Speedway in 2000. This project involved building a road course inside the oval. The inaugural event in 2000 set an F1 attendance record. Controversy surrounded the 2005 United States Grand Prix, where only 6 of the 20 cars took the green due to problems with Michelin tires, which likely damaged the reputation of the event and the F1 in general in the American market. Michael Schumacher became the first driver to win five races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by winning the 2006 race on July 2. Lewis Hamilton won the 2007 event, which turned out to be the last running. George and Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone could not reach an agreement to continue the US Grand Prix at the Brickyard for 2008 and beyond.

The Speedway hosted its first MotoGP event in 2008. The motorcycles could not safely race through the banked turns at high speed, so a portion of the infield was plowed and paved to provide a bypass to Turn 13 of the original road course.

George resigned on June 30, 2009 as President and CEO of IMS and Hulman & Company claiming it to be so he could focus more time on the Indy Racing League. [1] It has been reported that while George's mother Mari Hulman George (who is also chairman of the board) supported him, his sisters (who are the other directors) wanted him m out. The board also rejected George's request to continue funding Vision Racing. [2] [3] George had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on IRL teams, drivers, entry fees, marketing plans, airplanes, personnel and his own team. However the IRL has been said to be continually losing money, and after the estimated $60 million overhaul of the Speedway to accommodate Formula One in 2000, George's sisters, Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi Conforti-George, voiced their concern to their mother over the spending habits of their brother, finally convincing Mari Hulman George to take unchecked power away from him in June 2009. [4]

In January 2010, George resigned from the board of directors. In February 2011, however George again became a director of Hulman & Company when the board was expanded. [4] At a July 2016 NASCAR event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony George was described as Chairman of the Board of Hulman & Company, which owns IMS and the IndyCar Series. [5]

"The Split"

Shortly after being removed from the CART Board of Directors, George announced the creation of the Indy Racing League, which began racing in 1996. He claimed to create the IRL to challenge the already established CART series, and to encourage a more even playing field in open wheel racing. He claimed he wanted a series to run entirely on oval tracks, making it distinct from CART, which raced on road and street courses in addition to short ovals and superspeedways. George angered many CART participants by requiring 25 of the 33 spots in the Indianapolis 500 to be occupied by drivers in the IRL circuit. This meant that CART could not hold the Indianapolis 500 as a points scoring event on their calendar as not enough teams would be allowed to compete and earn points. CART decided to stage their own race on the same day, the U.S. 500 at Michigan International Speedway. Due to the lack of participation from the established CART teams, most of the biggest names did not enter the Indianapolis 500 for several years. Tony George became a figure of derision among some racing fans, and he is blamed for open wheel racing losing fans, sponsors and drivers to NASCAR. [6]

George was successful in increasing the visibility of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Indy 500 remains one of the highlights of the IRL race season and maintained a strong attendance. George also attracted NASCAR and Formula One (from 2000 to 2007) to Indianapolis. In 2008, the MotoGP series added the oval circuit to its schedule. However the IndyCar series had trouble drawing fans, plus it lost IndyCar drivers to NASCAR such as Sam Hornish, Dario Franchitti, and Danica Patrick. Despite the absorption of the Champ Car World Series (the successor to CART) to IndyCar series, the merged series is nowhere as popular or commercially successful as CART in the early 1990s. [7]


(see Indy Racing League) The IRL was founded in 1994 and began racing in 1996 claiming to offer a cost-effective, all-oval alternative to the PPG CART Indycar World Series. The basic beliefs behind the creation of the series were:

However, as the series evolved, it moved away from these principles, with more foreign drivers, increased costs and, eventually, racing on road courses and street circuits.

The IRL ("The League") struggled initially, until CART faced financial turmoil and CART teams began to return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. The concern over CART's future, financial stability, and the attraction to the sponsorship draw of the Indy 500 saw teams slowly moving over to the IRL from 2001 to 2003.

CART declared bankruptcy in the 2003 off season. George made a bid for certain assets of the company, while a trio of CART owners (Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi, and Kevin Kalkhoven), along with Dan Pettit, also made a bid, calling their group the Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS). George's offer was to purchase only select company assets, in an effort to eliminate any series that would rival his Indy Racing League. However, if George's bid (which was actually higher than the OWRS bid) had been successful, many vendors that were still owed money by CART would have not been paid. Therefore, a judge ruled that the OWRS group should be the purchaser of CART, which ensured a 25th anniversary season in 2004, running as Champ Car. Open Wheel Racing Series. (OWRS) would later change its name to Champ Car World Series (CCWS) LLC.

Prior to 2003 the IRL was unable to use the term "IndyCar" since that was licensed to CART. In 1992, The Speedway trademarked the term "IndyCar" which had been widely used by CART in championship branding and promotion. The Speedway then leased the term to CART through 1997. With the inception of the IRL, a lawsuit, and a six-year non-use agreement, formal use of the term disappeared. Widespread confusion ensued with CART still competing at "Indy" branded events in Canada and Australia, and both CART/Champ Car and IRL cars being popularly referred to as "IndyCars". In 2003 the non-use agreement expired and the IRL was able to adopt the recognized IndyCar moniker once again, thereafter becoming the IRL IndyCar Series.

Road courses entered the IRL schedule in 2005. Adding road courses added significant costs to the increasingly expensive league, because modifications to the chassis and engines (which were initially designed solely for the stresses of oval racing) would be required.[ citation needed ] This caused much criticism of George, and debate amongst fans, some of whom argued it went against what the IRL was founded. The fans opined that oval racing was more exciting than road and street racing, better represented the heritage of open-wheel, paid homage to the Indianapolis 500, was more cost effective and better allotted American drivers with the opportunity of success in open-wheel racing.[ citation needed ] The other side of the debate argued it was best for the IRL to adopt more road racing, and become similar to CART, the series that saw American open-wheel racing reach its peak (popularity, manufacturer and sponsor interest) with a diverse schedule, technical package, manufacturer involvement, and large costs.[ citation needed ] In addition, Champ Car, the successor to CART, had failed at providing as diverse a schedule as in the CART era. Becoming CART-like in its season schedule was suggested as a way to help grow the IRL fan base.[ citation needed ]

In 2005, George stepped down from his operational duties in the IRL to start his own team, Vision Racing, with his wife Laura George and actor Patrick Dempsey. The team was formed from the remnants of Kelley Racing, which disbanded after the 2004 season. George's stepson, Ed Carpenter, began driving for the team in 2005. Vision Racing shut down operations on January 28, 2009 due to a lack of sponsorship. [8]

On February 22, 2008, the IRL and Champ Car World Series signed a deal to unify the two open-wheel American circuits, bringing them under the umbrella of the IRL IndyCar Series. A statement was released by the two sides, saying, "Owners of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League completed an agreement in principle Friday that will unify the sport for 2008."

Champ Car liquidated its assets and the IRL bought almost all of them, thereby allowing the unification of IndyCar and Champ Car on track for 2008, as well as officially unifying the history of American Championship Car Racing.

Many commentators, such as Gordon Kirby, suggest that George's actions at the head of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and in creating the IRL to rival the then-dominant CART led to a sharp decline in popularity of open-wheel racing in the United States as it split the fanbase, and gave a significant boost to the national popularity of NASCAR. [9] [7]


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2009-07-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "Analysis: What does Tony George's resignation mean?". Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  3. "IndyStar - The Indianapolis Star". Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  4. 1 2 "INDYCAR: Tony George Reinstated To H&C; Board". Archived from the original on 2012-06-10. Retrieved 2011-10-17.
  5. "Tony George is new IMS Chairman of the Board". Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  6. "Oreovicz: Tony George era is history". 23 January 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  7. 1 2 Chang, Richard S. (July 1, 2009). "IndyCar President Tony George Resigns". The New York Times.
  8. "George shuts down Vision Racing - FOX Sports". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
  9. "Explaining modern sports' most self-destructive act". Gordon Kirby 2004-04. Retrieved 2010-03-21.

Related Research Articles

Indianapolis 500 Auto race held in Speedway, Indiana, United States

The Indianapolis 500, also formally known as the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, or simply the Indy 500, is an annual automobile race held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) in Speedway, Indiana, United States, an enclave suburb of Indianapolis. The event is traditionally held over Memorial Day weekend, usually the last weekend of May. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it was delayed to be held on August 23.

Championship Auto Racing Teams Defunct North American open wheel auto racing organization

Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) was a sanctioning body for American open-wheel car racing that operated from 1979 to 2003. It sanctioned the PPG Indy Car World Series from 1979 until dissolving after the 2003 season.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motorsport track in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an automobile racing circuit located in Speedway, Indiana in the United States. It is the home of the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400, and formerly the home of the United States Grand Prix. It is the largest sports venue in the world. It is located on the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road, approximately six miles (10 km) west of Downtown Indianapolis.

United States Auto Club Auto racing sanctioning body in the United States

The United States Auto Club (USAC) is one of the sanctioning bodies of auto racing in the United States. From 1956 to 1979, USAC sanctioned the United States National Championship, and from 1956 to 1997 the organization sanctioned the Indianapolis 500. Today, USAC serves as the sanctioning body for a number of racing series, including the Silver Crown Series, National Sprint Cars, National Midgets, Speed2 Midget Series, .25 Midget Series, Stadium Super Trucks, TORC: The Off-Road Championship, and Pirelli World Challenge.

Oval track racing Form of auto racing where competitors duel on an oval shaped track

Oval track racing is a form of closed-circuit motorsport that is contested on an oval-shaped race track. An oval track differs from a road course in that the layout resembles an oval with turns in only one direction, and the direction of traffic is almost universally counter-clockwise. Oval tracks are dedicated motorsport circuits, used predominantly in the United States. They often have banked turns and some, despite the name, are not precisely oval, and the shape of the track can vary.

American open-wheel car racing Category of professional-level automobile racing in North America

American open-wheel car racing, also known as Indy car racing, is a category of professional automobile racing in Northern America. As of 2020, the top-level American open-wheel racing championship is sanctioned by IndyCar.

Champ Car World Series (CCWS) was the series sanctioned by Open-Wheel Racing Series Inc., or Champ Car, a sanctioning body for American open-wheel car racing that operated from 2004 to 2008. It was the successor to Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), which sanctioned the PPG Indy Car World Series from 1979 until dissolving after the 2003 season.

Indy Lights American automobile racing series

Indy Lights is an American developmental automobile racing series sanctioned by IndyCar, currently known as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires for sponsorship reasons. Indy Lights is the highest step on the Road to Indy, a program of racing series leading up to the IndyCar Series. The Indy Lights series has been promoted by Anderson Promotions since 2014, which also manages the Road to Indy program.

Scott Brayton American open-wheel racing driver

Scott Everts Brayton was an American race car driver on the American open-wheel circuit. He competed in 14 Indianapolis 500s, beginning with the 1981 event. Brayton was killed in practice after qualifying for the pole position for the 1996 race.

1996 Indy Racing League

The 1996 Indy Racing League was the first season in the history of the series, which was created and announced on March 11, 1994 by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as a supplementary Indy-car series to the established Indy Car World Series sanctioned by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) since 1979. It consisted of only three races, as the season concluded with the 80th Indianapolis 500 in May. Walt Disney World Speedway was completed in time to host the first ever event of the Indy Racing League (IRL), and Phoenix International Raceway switched alliances from CART to the IRL, in order to host the second event of the season. At the conclusion of the three-race schedule, Scott Sharp and Buzz Calkins ended up tied for first place in the season championship. With no tiebreaker rule in place, the two drivers were declared co-champions. Its creation, and the opposition of Indy Car's teams and drivers to take part in it, marked the start of 'the Split', a 12-year period of competition between rival series at the top level of American Open Wheel racing that had lasting negative effects in the sport.

Indy Japan 300

The Indy Japan 300 presented by Bridgestone was an Indy Racing League IndyCar Series race held at Twin Ring Motegi in Motegi, Japan. The 2008 race marked the historic first ever win for a woman driver in American open wheel racing when Danica Patrick of Andretti-Green Racing took the checkered flag.

1984 CART PPG Indy Car World Series

The 1984 CART PPG Indy Car World Series season, the sixth in the CART era of U.S. open-wheel racing, consisted of 16 races, beginning in Long Beach, California on March 31 and concluding in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 10. The PPG Indy Car World Series Drivers' Champion was Mario Andretti and the Indianapolis 500 winner was Rick Mears. Rookie of the Year was Roberto Guerrero. The 68th Indianapolis 500 was sanctioned by the USAC, but counted in the CART points standings.

IndyCar Series Auto racing series held in North America

The IndyCar Series, currently known as the NTT IndyCar Series under sponsorship, is the premier level of open-wheel racing in North America. Its parent company began in 1996 as the Indy Racing League (IRL), which was created by then Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George as a competitor to CART. In 2008, the IndyCar Series merged with CART's successor, the Champ Car World Series. The series is self-sanctioned by its parent company, INDYCAR, LLC.

2004 Champ Car season

The 2004 Champ Car World Series season was the 26th overall season in the CART/Champ Car genealogy, and the first under the ownership of Open-Wheel Racing Series (OWRS) as the Champ Car World Series. It began on April 18, 2004, and ended on November 7 after 14 races. For sponsorship purposes, it was branded as Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. The Drivers' Champion was Sébastien Bourdais. The Rookie of the Year was A. J. Allmendinger.

1997 CART PPG World Series

The 1997 CART PPG World Series season, the nineteenth in the CART era of U.S. open-wheel racing, consisted of 17 races, beginning in Homestead, Florida on March 2 and concluding in Fontana, California on September 28. The PPG CART World Series Drivers' Champion was Alex Zanardi. Rookie of the Year was Patrick Carpentier.

VisionAire 500K Former auto race held at Charlotte

The VisionAire 500K was an Indy Racing League race held at Charlotte Motor Speedway from 1997 to 1999. During the 1999 event, three spectators were killed when debris from a crash on the track went into the grandstands. The race was stopped and canceled, and the event was removed from the Indy Racing League schedule.

IndyCar Auto racing sanctioning body for North American open wheel racing

INDYCAR, LLC, is an American-based auto racing sanctioning body for Indy car racing and other disciplines of open wheel car racing. The organization sanctions five racing series: the premier IndyCar Series with its centerpiece the Indianapolis 500, developmental series Indy Lights, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship and the U.S. F2000 National Championship, which are all a part of The Road To Indy & the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup. IndyCar is recognized as a member organization of the FIA through ACCUS.

Motorsport in the United States

Motor sports are widely popular in the United States, but Americans generally ignore major international series, such as Formula One and MotoGP, in favor of home-grown racing series.