INDIANAPOLIS – Four Indianapolis 500 first-year drivers will vie for the 44th annual Fastest Rookie of the Year Award presented by American Dairy Association Indiana (ADAI) and its Hoosier dairy farm families.
ADAI has sponsored the Fastest Rookie award since its inception in 1975, making it one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s longest running programs under the same sponsorship, second only to Borg-Warner.
The fastest qualifier from among this year’s rookie class will be guest of honor at the Fastest Rookie of the Year Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, May 22 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pagoda Plaza Pavilion. This by-invitation-only event is attended each year by more than 300, including representatives of the dairy industry from throughout Indiana and the US, a multitude of motorsports personalities, and a large contingent of local, national and international media.
Rookie drivers competing for the honor are:
Matheus “Matt” Leist, Novo Hamburgo – Brazil ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing
Robert Wickens, Guelph, Canada – Lucas Oil/Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Zachary Claman DeMelo, Montreal, Canada – Paysafe/Dale Coyne Racing
Kyle Kaiser, Santa Clara, California – NFP/Juncos Racing.
Last year’s Fastest Rookie award recipient was Fernando Alonso, who captured top honors with a four-lap average speed of 231.300 mph. Other drivers to have their names on the Fastest Rookie of the Year trophy, on permanent display in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, include Indy 500 champions Juan Pablo Montoya, Alexander Rossi, Rick Mears, Eddie Cheever Jr, Jacques Villeneuve, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan. Also among Fastest Rookie Award recipients are Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart, Chip Ganassi, Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti, Carlos Munoz, JR Hildebrand, Jimmy Vasser and Josef Newgarden.
The May 22 event begins with an 11 am reception, followed by lunch at 11:45. The program will start at 12:10 pm with “Jeopardairy!” – a lively game show-themed competition during which the rookie drivers and Hoosier dairy farmers will square off to test their knowledge of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 500-Mile Race and all- things-dairy. Immediately following “Jeopardairy!,” this year’s Fastest Rookie will receive his awards. In addition to the inscription on the permanent trophy, the winning rookie receives a plaque and $5000 cash award.
Event hosts include members of the board of directors of American Dairy Association Indiana: president Steve Phares of Albion, Indiana; vice president Janet Dague of Kewanna, Indiana; treasurer Richard Thomas, Middlebury, Indiana, and Haubstadt, Indiana’s Anita Schmitt, secretary. ADAI chief executive officer Deb Osza of Lapel, Indiana and her staff also will be on hand to welcome guests.
Veteran motorsports commentator Vince Welch will emcee the Fastest Rookie luncheon for the 20th consecutive year. Guests will enjoy video presentations that document the rookie drivers’ first Month of May at Indy and showcase the Hoosier dairy industry. Both the Fastest Rookie trophy and the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy are scheduled to be on display at the luncheon, courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.
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 part of Victory Circle ceremonies for portions of nine decades – including 63 consecutive years.
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 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. This
year’s champion will be greeted in Victory Circle by the American Dairy Association Indiana’s 2018 “Milk People” – Hoosier dairy farmers Kim Minich of LaPorte and Andrew Kuehnert, Fort Wayne. Both Minich and Kuehnert will attend the Fastest Rookie luncheon.