This year’s seven-member freshman class was recognized during the Fastest Rookie of the Year Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, May 20 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Plaza Pavilion. The by-invitation event was attended by over 300 guests, including representatives of the dairy industry from throughout Indiana and the US, motorsports personalities and a large media contingent, along with rookies Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Huertas, Sage Karam, James Davison, Martin Plowman and Jack Hawksworth.
In addition to having his name inscribed on the Fastest Rookie trophy on permanent display in the Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum, Busch received a newly redesigned plaque and $5000 cash award from Indiana’s dairy farm families.
Although Busch was unable to attend the event in person due to a media tour scheduling conflict, he appeared via video to thank Hoosier dairymen for the honor – and the crowd was thrilled by the Andretti Autosport representative who accepted the bounty in his behalf: motorsports legend and 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti.
Event hosts included members of the board of directors of American Dairy Association Indiana: president Donald Gurtner of Fremont, Indiana; vice president Paul Mills of Ossian, Indiana; treasurer Steve Phares, Albion, Indiana, and Haubstadt, Indiana’s Anita Schmitt, secretary. ADAI general manager Deb Osza of Lapel, Indiana and her staff also were on hand to welcome guests.
Vince Welch, a member of the ESPN on ABC Sports crew set to cover the May 25 race, was emcee of the program for the 16th consecutive year.
Also among guests was Jean Ragalie, National Dairy Council president representing The Great American Milk Drive. This initiative enables the public to donate gallons of fluid milk to local food pantries via a simple text or mouse click. A “mass milk give” took place during the Fastest Rookie luncheon, with guests texting the word “MILK” to 90999.
The Fastest Rookie award is one of two programs that continues the long association between the Hoosier dairy industry and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Bottle of Milk presented to the winner of the 500-mile classic has been a traditional part of the Victory Circle ceremony for nearly 80 years – 59 of which have been consecutive.
The legendary Louis Meyer, the race’s first three-time winner (1928, ’33, ’36) is recognized as the driver who began the tradition by requesting a cold drink of buttermilk – his favorite beverage – following his victory in 1933. Three years later, Meyer was photographed dinking milk in Victory Lane. Milk was presented off and on during the next several years until, in 1956, the Bottle of Milk was made a permanent part of the post-race celebration by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Anton “Tony” Hulman.
The bottles have become prized possessions of race winners, who also receive a $10,000 cash prize for enjoying that long, refreshing, nutritious post-race drink of milk. This year’s champion will be greeted in Victory Circle by the American Dairy Association Indiana’s 2014 “Milkmen” – Hoosier dairy farmers Ken Hoeing of Rush County, and Alan Wright, Muncie. Both Hoeing and Wright attended the Fastest Rookie luncheon.