Today’s the day. We’re hosting our 41st annual Fastest Rookie Award Luncheon! Know what that means? It means the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is just five days away! We began honoring Indianapolis 500-Mile Race rookies with an award and luncheon in 1975. Bill Puterbaugh received the very first award. Over the years many well-known drivers have received the coveted award including Rick Mears, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti, Josef Newgarden, Eddie Cheever, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick. The Fastest Rookie of the Year Award goes to the first-year driver who achieves the fastest four-lap average speed among fellow rookie competitors during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
We conceived the award to welcome, honor and celebrate each rookie class that competes in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race and to acquaint them with the famous Bottle of Milk tradition at the end of each grueling 500-Mile race. (When legendary race driver, Louis Meyer pulled into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Memorial Day 1933 and asked for a cold glass of buttermilk to quench his thirst after 500 grueling miles, little did anyone realize a tradition had been born.) The Fastest Rookie receives a plaque, monetary award, commemorative poster and his or her name is engraved on a trophy that is permanently displayed at the Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum.
The Fastest Rookie Award and Luncheon has become another beloved ‘Month of May Tradition.’ I especially enjoy the opportunity to become acquainted with these young drivers who are charming, entertaining and talented athletes. Meeting them will enhance the thrill of watching the greatest spectacle in racing on Sunday. Today, two Indiana dairy farmers have the honor of meeting the winner in Victory Circle to present an ice cold bottle of fat free, 2% or whole milk to the winning driver with extra bottles for the chief mechanic and team owner. The rookies being honored today get to meet these Hoosier dairy farmers so they know who to look for should they be the ones entering Victory Circle at the end of the race.