The Strange Tradition That All Winners of the Indianapolis 500 Share

The 24th Indy 500, held in 1936, was the first time the winner was given the official pace car. It was, however, what winner Louis Meyer did immediately after the race that initiated one of the most unusual of traditions. Having been brought up believing in the nourishing and refreshing qualities of buttermilk, that’s what exhausted Meyer requested and swigged after becoming the Indy 500’s first 3-time winner. An opportunistic marketing man in the dairy industry saw the footage of the post-race celebration — unaware that it was buttermilk that Meyer was chugging — and made inquiries into having Indy winners drink milk from then on. The American Dairy Industry then decided to offer $400 to the winner and $50 to his chief mechanic, provided the driver was shown drinking milk in Victory Lane — and so it became a tradition. There was a slight hiccup in 1993, when Emerson Fittipaldi pushed away the bottle of milk and chose to drink orange juice. Not long after, Fittipaldi realized his PR blunder and the money that the winner receives from the American Dairy Association was then donated to a charity. Today, drivers are given a choice of milk preference, choosing between whole, 2%, skim, buttermilk, and even chocolate milk. In case you’re wondering, whole milk seems to be the odds-on favorite.