The Indianapolis 500 is one of the strongest traditions in American sports.
From the 33-car field, to the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana,” the launch of balloons before the start of the race and the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy featuring the faces of previous winners, the Indy 500 is rich in history. and traditions. But perhaps one of the strangest traditions of the race is the winner downing a bottle of cold milk in victory lane.
It is a unique tradition that has appeared in every race since 1956 and has become an instant moment that defines the euphoria of victory after winning one of the most iconic races in the world.
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Why does the Indianapolis 500 winner drink milk?
Celebrating an Indy 500 victory with milk dates back to 1933, when Louis Meyer enjoyed a glass of buttermilk after winning his second Indy 500. Meyer’s mother had always told him that it was best to drink on a hot day it was buttermilk. In 1936, when Meyer won again, he drank his milk from a large glass bottle instead of a glass. An executive of what was then the Milk Foundation was so excited when he saw the photo of Meyer on Victory Lane in the newspaper the next day that he promised to make the milk bottle an Indy 500 staple.
The tradition was repeated over the next few years, but took a brief hiatus between 1946-1955 when milk was no longer offered on the circuit. The winner has had a frozen milk bottle every year since. Today, all 33 drivers are surveyed before the race, asking about their preference for whole, 2 percent, or skim milk. Power showed no preference for his win last year, and no one has been able to confirm what variety he was given.
Why not buttermilk?
If the tradition started with buttermilk, why can’t drivers choose that variety today? No, it’s not a Big Dairy conspiracy, but the Indiana American Dairy Association’s conspiracy looking for drivers’ taste buds. In a statement from Brooke Williams, director of communication for the American Dairy Association Indiana, at Indy star, the absence of whey is the result of its new taste due to industrial mass production. Buttermilk in the 30’s was actually a leftover from making butter and it was rich and creamy. Today’s factory version is plain milk with a culture and added salt, creating a more bitter tasting drink.
However, as drivers continue to ask for buttermilk, Williams offered a possible warning about the future of options: “(Yes) we see a driver drink a full glass of buttermilk before the race,” Williams said. , “We’ll give them some special (consideration). For now, we’ll keep it on all three options.”
Who drank orange juice at Indy 500?
The tradition of drinking milk was almost ended in 1993 by Emerson Fittipaldi. Following Fittipaldi’s victory, he broke tradition by drinking a bottle of orange juice while several fans booed him. Fittipaldi, who owns a 500,000-acre Brazilian orange grove, was quick to go after the DO with the usual glass bottle of milk, but the Indiana American Dairy Association wasn’t happy. Fittipaldi then issued an apology.
Three drivers, AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, have won the race a record four times. Helio Castroneves leads all active drivers with three victories. Ray Harroun won the inaugural race in 1911.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.