INDIANAPOLIS – Two-time Formula One World Champion racing legend Fernando Alonso was honored Tuesday by the American Dairy Association Indiana as he became the 43rd driver to be awarded the “Fastest Rookie of the Year Award.” Despite his impressive racing resume, this is the first time Alonso will compete in the Indianapolis 500, thus dubbing him a ‘rookie.’
The presentation took place today (Tuesday, 23 May 2017) during a luncheon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda Plaza Pavilion. Over 300 by-invitation guests attended, including representatives of the Speedway and IndyCar Series, the dairy industry from throughout Indiana and the US, and members of local, national and international media.
Alonso hails from Oviedo, Spain and has driven for McLaren-Honda off and on since 2007. Alonso secured his spot as the Fastest Rookie on Sunday, May 21 when his four-lap average speed of 231.300 qualified him in the 5th spot for the Indy 500 grid. He will start in the middle of the second row in the No 29 car for McLaren Honda/Andretti Autosport.
Due to IndyCar’s national media day, Alonso was not present at the traditional luncheon. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford accepted the award on his behalf. Rutherford is one of seven drivers to win the Indy 500 three times and two of those victories came in a McLaren car. The prize package includes a $5000 cash award, plaque, commemorative poster, and Alonso’s name has been added to the Fastest Rookie trophy on permanent display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
Alonso’s fellow rookie competitors – Jack Harvey, Ed Jones, and Zach Veach – attended the luncheon and were recognized for their achievements.
Event hosts included members of the board of directors of American Dairy Association Indiana: president Alan Wright; vice president Steve Phares; secretary Anita Schmitt, and Richard Thomas, treasurer. ADAI general manager Deb Osza of Lapel, Indiana and her staff also welcomed guests.
Among guests were Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett; 500 Festival Queen Shivani Bajpai of Zionsville, IN; Indiana Dairy Princess Hayley Jackson of Frankfort, IN and IMS historian Donald Davidson. Veteran motorsports commentator Vince Welch emceed the Fastest Rookie luncheon for the 19th consecutive year. Guests enjoyed presentations that documented the rookie drivers’ first Month of May at Indy and showcased the Hoosier dairy industry.
The Fastest Rookie award is one of two programs that continue 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 – 62 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 drinking 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 Speedway owner 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. American Dairy Association Indiana’s 2017 “Milk People” – Hoosier dairy farmers Joe Kelsay of Whiteland and Kim Minich of La Porte, will greet this year’s champion in Victory Circle. Both Kelsay and Minich attended the Fastest Rookie luncheon with their spouses.