Why Does the Indianapolis 500 Winner Pour Milk on Their Head?
You never know what to expect in the Indianapolis 500...except for one thing. Whoever wins the race will be doused with milk in victory lane...but why?
This weekend in the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. The race is popularly known as "the greatest spectacle in racing." It's the one thing that people all over the world know about when it comes to Indiana. Since the 1930's there's been a tradition with the Indianapolis 500 that involves the winner pouring milk on their head in celebration. Of course, they drink the milk too, but most of it is poured all over the winner. It's kind of an odd tradition. I mean you spend a few hours hot and sweaty in a car, I feel like the last thing you want to drink is milk. Now, if you're a die-hard racing fan, you might already know the story. If not, and you want to impress your friends this weekend, here's a little history lesson for you.
According to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this tradition was started by Hall of Fame driver Louis Meyer in 1933. I guess he wasn't a fan of champagne, so to cool himself off after a race, he would do what anyone would think about doing when they are hot and thirsty...drink milk. When he won the Indy 500 for the second time, he requested a glass of buttermilk. Then, after winning for the third time in 1936, he was given a whole bottle after the race.
An executive with what was then the Milk Foundation caught him swigging from the bottle while holding up three fingers for his third win, and not realizing that he was drinking buttermilk, they thought it would be a good marketing move to present the winner with a bottle of milk every year...except between 1947 and 1955, for some reason, but every other year the race has happened, there has been milk served to the winner.
The American Dairy Association of Indiana has special "milk people" that get the milk and present it to the winner. Here's the interesting thing about the milk: every year, they ask all of the drivers what type of milk they prefer if they were to win the event.
As you can see, whole, 2%, and skim, are the options that the drivers get to choose from each year. I suppose it's a good thing that I am not a driver. One, because I am too accident-prone for that, and two, I prefer strawberry milk. Unfortunately, they cannot choose chocolate or strawberry milk; it has to be white. What if they are lactose intolerant and can't have milk? That's a good question. They can request lactose-free milk.
If the milk preference poll above is any indication, it looks like we might be seeing whole milk in victory lane this weekend. The 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 28, 2023. The Indy 500 will be shown on NBC. Prerace coverage will begin exclusively on Peacock at 9 a.m. and then move to Peacock and NBC at 11 a.m. and run through 4 p.m., followed by a post-race show on Peacock Premium.