Milk and Race: The Indy 500’s Odd Milk Obsession

In May, racing fans turn their attention to Indianapolis for the annual race that has been held there since 1911 – the Indianapolis 500. The sporting event is rich in history and tradition, but nothing quite as outlandish as the one where the race winner takes a down a bottle of milk as soon as they cross the finish line. As far as sporting traditions go, this one is weird, even if it promotes healthy bones. Let’s look at how the Indy 500’s obsession with milk began and what it means for today’s racing event. 

Louis Meyer started the milk tradition by accident

The Indianapolis 500 had been running without milk for over twenty years when the tradition of drinking milk began. When it started, it wasn’t intentional. Louis Meyer won the Indy 500 three times, in 1928, 1933 and 1936. The race is long, hot and grueling, so Meyer did what his mother suggested – he drank iced buttermilk after every race. His sip of milk went unnoticed after his victory in 1928, but he gained media attention with his second victory a few years later. Photographers took pictures of Meyer and her milk and the images appeared in newspapers across the country. When Meyer won his third Indy 500 in 1936, he repeated his milk consumption, much to the delight of the crowd. Since then, it has been a tradition for every Indy 500 winner. 

Meyer’s photo was seen by a milk promoter

After Meyer’s 1933 milk photo circulated, an executive working for the Milk Foundation, an organization that promoted dairy and dairy farming, not unlike the American Dairy Association, saw the image and immediately realized the potential of a photo. drinking milk with a winning race car. He worked to ensure that milk consumption was included in the Indy 500 from then on. When Meyer returned to drinking milk after his third win, he helped the Milk Foundation’s mission without realizing it. 

It’s worth drinking your milk

Indianapolis race promoters and the dairy industry struck some financial deals starting in 1956. The dairy companies agreed to sponsor the Indy 500 racing scholarship, and in return could promote their milk by giving the driver a bottle of milk. winner. The American Dairy Association of Indiana now offers a $10,000 bonus to the Indy 500 winner who drinks milk in victory lane. Sounds like easy money… who wouldn’t? At least one driver declined the tradition. 

Milk was replaced with orange juice and fans booed

When Emerson Fittipaldi won the Indianapolis 500 in 1993, he decided to forego the American Dairy Association of Indiana’s generous offer of bonus money for drinking milk. Instead, he chose to drink orange juice. The racing driver owned a large citrus farm and hoped to promote the citrus industry with his Indy 500 win. But racing fans were outraged at the breach of tradition. They booed and jeered at Fittipaldi and created such chaos that Fittipaldi took a sip of milk to calm the crowd. They were not appeased and Fittipaldi received hate mail and backlash. He was still being booed the following week when he raced in Wisconsin. He learned that you don’t mess with Indy 500 fans and their milk tradition. 

No Indy 500 winner so far has been lactose intolerant

According to the American Dairy Association of Indiana, none of the past Indianapolis 500 winners have expressed concerns about milk allergies and lactose intolerance. In that case, most drivers agree that the milk tradition is worth sticking with, even if it means an upset stomach later on. As Mario Andretti once told reporters: β€œIt’s the tradition. Not everyone likes milk, but suddenly milk tastes good. β€ Drivers can choose between whole, 2% and fat-free milk.