This piece will be the first in a series that features the people who make the Keeneland Concours d’Elegance possible. This feature is on Ray Szeluga, the Director of Car Nomination. Author, Andrew Marsh.
Ray Szeluga has been involved with the Keeneland Concours since 2016 when he took over car selection from Jim Levenson. Jim had run the car selection committee since the first show back in 2004 and asked for help at a local Cars and Coffee. As Ray put it, “wrong place, right time. I’ve been accused of being not very smart,” he said. “I raised my hand, and along I went.” But don’t let his self-deprecating wisecracks fool you, Ray has been a critical part of putting on the Concours over the last three years.
Ray’s job as head of car selection involves coordinating the efforts of class leaders who track down and confirm cars for the Concours. With the help of his co-chair Chris Cashen and the other class leaders, Ray has brought hundreds of incredible vehicles to central Kentucky.
Ray grew up in Rockford, Illinois, and has one of those warm midwestern accents that leans heavily on the “r” and really rounds out the “o.” Ray wasn’t into cars when he was small. His dad was not much of a car guy, but his uncle was a Mopar fan and ran a Gulf filling station in nearby Cherry Valley. At 14, Ray started working weekends at the filling station, pumping gas, changing tires, and learning how to work on cars. “I’d make maybe 20 bucks a weekend as a 14-year-old back in the 50s, which was a lot of money.”
Ray has a long car history, but here are some highlights. When he first met Mary Anne, his wife of 50 years, he rode around in a raked over ‘54 Mercury. “I’d come home on Fridays and pick her up from school, and I’d come rumbling in BRUHM BRUHM BRUHM BRUHM BRUHM.” Even though she wasn’t into cars, she was a fan. Ray would go on to own other Mercurys and Fords, including a 1960 Sunliner – “The first time I backed it up and looked out over the back I felt like I was driving an aircraft carrier” – and a ‘66 Mustang “4 speed, 289, four barrel … a hot little thing.”
Ray and Mary Anne loved the Mustang, but they knew it wasn’t going to work with a family on the way. So they went to see Ray’s uncle — the one he used to work for in Cherry Valley. They ended up getting a ‘69 Dodge Dart GT convertible in a brilliant shade of blue. Fifty years later this April, the Szelugas are still driving the Dart around town and in events like the Hot Rod Power Tour and The Great Race.
Ray subscribes to the philosophy that people make cars special by adding stories to the metal like a good layer of patina. When Ray talked about their Dart — how long they’ve owned it, the memories he and his family made in the car — you could tell that it is more than just a machine to the Szelugas. When you own a car for as long as they have it becomes more than what it was, a mass-produced Mopar compact.
When asked what his favorite part of the Concours is, Ray took a beat but his answer came fast and was to the point. “Just seeing everything, and hearing the stories. Forget the cars!” Some of his favorites include a Locomobile that was owned by silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. But what has moved him the most over his tenure have been the times when people have gone above and beyond to get a car to Keeneland. There were two cars that he had in mind, a wonderfully restored 1970 Buick GSX and a Sunbeam Tiger that were brought to the Concours in memory of their owners — who had passed away a short time before the show.
Ray’s sentiment towards owners and their stories is fairly common amongst the people who run the Concours. Ken Hold, one of the founders of the show, said more or less the same thing in an interview last year. Ken loves bringing people together around their shared passion for cars, and Ray is the man who brings many of those people to Keeneland in July.
Getting them on the phone is one of Ray’s favorite parts of the job. When he took over car selection, he learned from Jim Levenson that many of the potential entrants are not easy to access. But he told Ray that once it comes out that you’re calling about a car, doors start to open that were closed tight before. This exact scenario happened to Ray recently, when he got on the line with an assistant. Ray told them who he was with and why he was calling, and in his words: “she goes, wait a minute… he’s giving directions, somebody calls, and the call goes through!”
For this year’s show, Ray is particularly excited about a Mercury Cougar Eliminator that he was able to secure with the help of the Cougar Club of America. There are five months until the show, and entrants are still being accepted. We don’t yet know every vehicle Ray will secure for the show field this year. But we do know that we are thankful for his efforts and his enthusiasm for bringing people to Keeneland!
This is Ray’s 1938 Ford four-door Deluxe.
Shown here is Ray and his wife of 50 years, Mary Anne.
This photo was taken at the ZMax Dragway at the end of the 2018 Hot Rod Power Tour.
This is Ray and Mary Anne’s Dodge Dart in the 2013 Great Race.
Class 1 Antiques thru 1924 “Brass Era” — The beginning of the automobile era through the early 1920s is considered the antique / brass era. During this time many automobile manufactures were using brass for headlights, radiators, windshield frames, etc. Hence the brass era.
Class 2 Vintage 1925-1949 This is a hard class to define. Generally ‘vintage cars” are described as automobiles manufactured between 1919 and 1930. Our definition of “Vintage” automobiles are not as old as “Brass Era” and extend through the first few years following World War II (1949).
Class 3 CCCA 1915-1948 — The Classic Car Club of America recognizes significant automobiles, both foreign and domestic, that meet the club’s requirements. Generally speaking, a car must be distinctive, such as having a custom body. Often, the cars were exclusive, high-priced models when new.
Class 4 Coach Built Classics — The practice of elaborate coachbuilding carried on, especially in Europe, up until World War II. Coachbuilding houses in the UK, Italy, France, Germany and elsewhere built custom bodies for the chassis that Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and other luxury carmakers would produce. Some ultra-luxury vehicles were produced as chassis only, which were then handed off to various coach builders. Duesenberg, Bugatti and Rolls-Royce employed this method of production in the ’30s and ’40s.
Class 5A Collector American Open 1947-1975 — The 1950s were pivotal for the American automobile industry. The years following World War II sparked a revolution in automotive design and technology. This era brought a wide range of new technologies to the automobile consumer but big problems for the independent automobile manufacturers who could not benefit from mass production and the economies of scale. The age of small independent automakers was nearly over, as most of them either consolidated or went out of business. By the end of the decade, the industry had reshaped itself into the Big Three, Studebaker and AMC.
Class 5B Collector American Closed 1947-1975 — A number of innovations were either invented or improved sufficiently to allow for mass production after WW II: air conditioning, automatic transmission, supercharging, power steering, power brakes, seat belts and most significantly the overhead-valve V8 engine. Studebaker was the first independent automaker to produce a low-priced V8 and the horsepower race had begun, laying the foundation for the muscle car era. Further challenges came with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and regulations governing automobile fuel economy in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Class 6 Sports Classics — Sports cars follow a number of paths to reach high levels of performance. For some, it is lightweight and a balanced suspension. Others use larger engines and technology to surpass the standard family car.
Class 7 Foreign Collector — Collector Foreign is an eclectic collection of automobiles from English, German and Japanese manufactures. The class includes sporting, touring and luxury automobiles from the 1930s to 1970. The cars in this class are sought after, and some have been kept in the same family for generations.
Class 8 Sports Contemporary — Sports cars follow a number of paths to reach high levels of performance. For some, it is light weight and a balanced suspension. Others use larger engines and technology to surpass the standard family car.
Class 9 Contemporary Classics — Performance and exotic cars have made huge gains in the last three decades. This class features everything from European exotics to a rare American exotic, wearing Italian coachwork, to a seminal Japanese sports car.
Class 10 “Featured Marque” Aston Martin —
Class 11 Corvette — “Most Wanted” wishlist for the July event. If you have a unique corvette, please contact us.
C1’s – Fulie’s and Z06 Big Tanks
C2’s – L-78, L-88, ‘63 split window
C3’s – ZL1, L88’s, T-tops
C4’s – ZR1, ‘96 GS convertible
C5’s – Z06, 50th Anniversary, Fixed Roof Coupe, Indy Pace car
C6’s – Z06 (Comp Sport/GT1), ZR1
C7’s – Carbon 65, ZR1, Z06
Class 12 American Performance 1955 – 1975 During the late ’50s through the mid ’70s American manufactures attempted to out do each other with higher performance cars. By the mid ’70s insurance costs and gasoline prices had increased significantly to curtail this performance craze.
Class 13 Classic Thunderbirds 1955-1957 — Ford’s first Thunderbird was released (1955) in late 1954 not as a Corvette competitor, but designed for the Country Club Market. Ford’s two seater Thunderbird had a production run through the 1957 model year. During 1956 and 1957 Ford released “E” and ”F” code versions. These models were equipped with two 4 bbl carburetors (E) or the optional supercharger version (F ).
Class 14 Carriages — The Carriage Class for 2019 will feature unpainted natural wood carriages. Carriages with varnished finishes were built of the finest blemish free woods with the best grain. These vehicles will showcase the fantastic joinery involved in the carriage making art that is usually hidden under layers of paint.
Class 15 Motorcycles — Motorcycles represent the other side of the world’s motoring choice. Predating the automobile, motorcycles continue to offer multiple styles and manufacturers, options for customization, and a level of freedom and access not offered by automobiles. British, Italian and American motorcycles dominated the industry until the 1960s saw the introduction of the first Japanese bikes, which were less expensive, more reliable and, by the 1970s, much faster, leading to the closing of many established manufacturers.
Class 16 Future Classics — Some cars are classics from the moment they are introduced, whether they are mass-produced or exclusive examples built for the most fanatic owners. They can be familiar muscle cars or designs that harken back more than a century.
Class 17 Loud & Furious —The Loud and Furious class is returning for its 3rd straight year at the Keeneland Concours d’Elegance. This class consists of cars that have been heavily modified as would be seen in the Fast and Furious movies. Modifications to these vehicles focus on customizing and upgrading engines, engine bays, interiors, trunks, wheels, suspension, paint, and body panels.
Class 18 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 1969–2012 — 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Pontiac Trans Am and will feature all the anniversary models of the the Trans Am that Pontiac built and the very first year.
Here is an article worthy of your reading time. John Olman of Concours.NEWS writes about all of the Concours events across our nation. In the article, John writes about “How to Enter Your Car in a Concours d’Elegance”. Thanks, John.
The Keeneland Concours d’Elegance announces a dedicated Corvette class for 2019. Corvettes have played an integral role since the inaugural Keeneland event in 2004, but a perennial class for Corvette has not existed. We are committed to showcasing Kentucky-built Corvettes as a permanent fixture of our annual events.
This is a call for entrants. For 2019 we are looking for Corvettes from each of the 7 generations. To keep things exciting we have created a “Most Wanted” wish list. While it’s not our goal to limit entrants to only those cars noted, it would be fun to have a few. This is a call for nominations.
C1’s – Fulie’s and Z06 Big Tanks
C2’s – L-78’s, L-88’s, ‘63 Split-window
C3’s – ZL1’s, L88’s, T-tops
C4’s – ZR1’s, ‘96 Grand Sport Coup or Convertibles
C5’s – Z06’s, 50th Anniv., Fixed Roof Coupe, Indy Pace Car
C6’s – Z06’s (Competition Sport and GT1), and ZR1’s
C7’s – Carbon 65’s, ZR1’s, Z06’s
Mary “Mari” Hulman George, matriarch of the Hulman George racing family and Chairman of the Board Emeritus of Hulman & Company, which owns and operates the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, passed away early Saturday morning. She was 83.
Hulman George passed away surrounded by family members, according to an Indianapolis Motor Speedway statement.
“Racing is filled with passionate people, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone more passionate than Mari Hulman George,” retired IndyCar and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, an Indiana native who grew up idolizing the Indy 500 and the speedway, told The Associated Press.
Hulman George oversaw stewardship of IMS – known as the Racing Capital of the World – as its chairman for nearly 30 years, from 1988 until her retirement from active involvement in day-to-day operations in 2016. However, even in retirement, she still remained active in IMS oversight.
Noted for her quiet yet firm control of the company – which included Hulman & Company, IMS and the IMS Foundation – Hulman George also was well known for her philanthropic efforts in Indianapolis and the state of Indiana for numerous groups, including Special Olympics, of which she was involved with until her death.
Hulman George spent her entire adult life in and around IMS, which was purchased in November 1945 by her father, Anton “Tony” Hulman Jr., who saved the facility from almost certain demolition following the conclusion of World War II.
Hulman George was one of the most respected individuals in motorsports, and was one of the first women to be involved in operations and management of such a major facility as IMS in the 1950s and 1960s.
Mary Antonia Hulman – who adopted the nickname “Mari” in her youth – was born to Anton Herman Jr. and Mary Fendrich Hulman on December 26, 1934 in Evansville, Indiana.
While Hulman was involved in helping her family run IMS as a teenager, it was after attending Purdue University that she became immersed in greater involvement in assisting her father in operating IMS.
In 1954, Hulman George, who had not even turned 21 yet, joined with family friend Roger Wolcott to form the HOW racing team, which became successful in both the American Automobile Association (AAA) and United States Auto Club (USAC) Sprint and National Championship series.
Among drivers that piloted cars for the HOW team were Jerry Hoyt, Eddie Sachs, Tony Bettenhausen, Roger McCluskey and Elmer George, whom she married in April 1957. Elmer George subsequently won the Midwest Sprint Car title the same year after finishing third in 1956. Elmer George would also finish third in 1958. In addition, Sachs was runner-up in the Midwest Sprint Car rankings in 1954.
Mari Hulman George and her husband co-owned an Indianapolis 500 entry in 1962 and 1963 that Elmer George drove, finishing a career-best 17th in 1962. Elmer George received relief help from Paul Russo and A.J. Foyt during that race.
Foyt and Hulman George first met in 1958, forming a relationship that evolved into a lifelong friendship. Foyt was one of Hulman George’s closest friends and most trusted advisors, and vice-versa Hulman George was the same for Foyt.
Hulman also maintained close relationships with numerous drivers, team owners, sponsors, Indianapolis and Indiana politicians, business leaders, charitable group officials and more.
Hulman George was a private person who rarely sought out the public spotlight. But she did assume the role of issuing the famous “Gentleman (and Lady or Ladies, if females were entered in the race), Start Your Engines” command to start races for more than 15 years, from the late 1990s until 2015, in both the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
She also became close with stars of TV and the silver screen, including her beloved friend Jim Nabors, who sang “Back Home Again In Indiana” at IMS for nearly 30 years, and Florence Henderson, who also performed for numerous years during Indy 500 pre-race activities.
Hulman George will be long remembered for her oversight of IMS and taking the facility and related events to unprecedented heights of notoriety and popularity.
It was under Hulman George’s watch that IMS not only further solidified the Indy 500 as the greatest motorsports racing event in the world, but also played host to NASCAR and the Brickyard 400, Formula One (2002 through 2007), the FIM MotoGP World Championship, began the Indianapolis Grand Prix for IndyCar in 2014, and more recently, the Red Bull Air Race.
One of Hulman George’s greatest achievements – and one the racing world globally has her to thank for especially – was her determination to constantly enhance safety. She led the move for IMS to become the first major racing facility in the world to install the energy-absorbing SAFER Barrier in 2002.
In addition to her philanthropic involvement, Hulman George was also a tireless advocate for animals, particularly horses and dogs, particularly retired racing Greyhounds.
Hulman George is survived by three daughters, Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi George-Conforti; a son, Anton H. “Tony” George; a stepdaughter, Carolyn Coffey; seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and her longtime companion, Guy Trollinger. She was predeceased by her husband, Elmer, and a stepson, Joseph George.
Funeral arrangements are pending and have been entrusted to Callahan & Hughes Funeral Home in Terre Haute, Indiana.