Here we are, just a little over 2 weeks until we experience all that happens on Race Day – the pre-race activities and ceremonies, the parade of service personnel, the singing of God Bless America and Back Home Again in Indiana, the release of the balloons, the fly-over and those oh so famous words – “Drivers, Start Your Engines!”. It’s such a wonderfully exciting time, and these few words don’t do it justice. You really do have to be there!
Traditions abound that involve the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race– from the Mini-Marathon in early May to the awards banquet the evening after the race. But as you might guess, the one nearest and dearest to our hearts is the Drink of Milk in Victory Circle. Where do you think our “Winners Drink Milk” slogan began? Just take a look at our conference room!
How did this unique tradition begin? After all, milk isn’t offered at any other races. In 1933, Louis Meyer won his second Indy 500. Of course, he was hot and thirsty, and his favorite beverage was buttermilk! He had some in his garage and asked for a glass of it while in Victory Lane. In 1936, this scenario is repeated when Meyer garnered his third Indy 500 victory, and is photographed drinking the buttermilk. Off and on for the next two decades, milk is presented to the winning driver. In 1956, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman makes the Bottle of Milk a permanent Victory Lane celebration.
All was well and good until 1993, when Brazilian orange grove owner – and race car driver – Emerson Fittipaldi was the victor that race day and chose to drink orange juice instead of milk in Victory Lane. Even though he later took a sip of milk, international outcry over the milk snub demonstrated the high regard for the Drink of Milk tradition. Our General Manager, Deb Osza, reports the phones were ringing off the hook after the race that year!
During this 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 Milk Race, you can be part the world’s largest milk toast! Indiana dairy farmer Joe Kelsay will hand ice cold bottles of milk to the winning team owner and chief mechanic, and Indiana dairy farmer Janet Dague will hand the winning driver that coveted ice cold bottle of milk. If you’re at the race, be sure to get your bottle of milk, complements of Prairie Farms, as you enter the track. Don’t wait till the end of the race – it might all be gone! And be sure to leave some room in your cooler to keep it cold! If you’re watching on TV, pour yourself a cold one – milk please – and join us as we raise our bottles in victory!