INDIANAPOLIS — A celebratory swig of milk has accompanied a trip down Victory Lane after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but one poll shows not every driver wants it the same.
The American Dairy Association of Indiana gave drivers three kinds of milk - whole milk, two percent, or fat-free - to choose from if they win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”.
Of 32 drivers polled by the American Dairy Association of Indiana, 26 chose whole milk and six chose two percent. No drivers opted for fat-free.
Some drivers got a little technical with their requests. Helio Castroneves put "pink powder, please" under his whole milk preference.
When Castroneves won in 2021, the strawberry flavoring he put into his winner’s milk matched his hot pink suit and No. 06 Honda.
Graham Rahal took a stand and put, "Whole, since chocolate isn’t an option and tradition matters." But Devlin DeFrancesco, Colton Herta, and Juan Pablo Montoya, apparently in defiance of tradition, did say they wanted chocolate.
Only two drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Kirkwood, bothered with niceties in their request - "Please make sure it’s cold" and "Ice cold please," they wrote.
2020 Indy 500 Champion Takuma Sato and four-time pole winner Ed Carpenter both opted for 2% milk over whole, with Carpenter noting he would like buttermilk to go along with it.
Carpenter’s request is likely a nod to the rumored roots of this milk-sipping tradition.
Louis Meyer, the first three-time champion of the Indy 500, reportedly drank buttermilk as a kid growing up in New York. Meyer claimed it was buttermilk, similar to the kind that cooled him down for so many east coast summers, that he drank after his victories in 1933 and 1936.
In 1936, a dairy industry executive saw a photo of Meyer and requested milk be available to the winner each year.
Between 1938 to 1946, every winner sipped milk. But drivers switched to water in a silver chalice between 1947 and 1955, at the behest of three-time winner and track president Wilbur Shaw.
When Shaw died in a private plane crash in 1956, the dairy industry reportedly posted a $400 accessory prize that would be paid to the winner if they drank milk in Victory Lane.
Since then, drivers like Sam Hanks and Jimmy Bryan were paid $400 for a drink of milk, while more recent winners have received up to $10,000, according to IMS.
The American Dairy Association of Indiana manages the milk that is brought to the drivers.