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Indianapolis Traditions - The Winners Pint of Milk

April 02, 2016

A long-standing tradition of the Indianapolis 500 is for the winner to drink a bottle of milk immediately after the race. This tradition dates back to 1936 after victor Louis Meyer asked for a glass of buttermilk, something his mother had encouraged him to drink on hot days. Meyer also reportedly drank milk after his victory in 1933, as did a few others in the immediate years afterward. The young tradition quickly went away, and for a time after WWII, was replaced by "Water From Wilbur" - a silver jug (resembling an ice bucket) filled with icy-cold water, presented by then-Speedway president, and three-time former winner Wilbur Shaw.

By 1956, the milk returned as a ritual as milk companies became sponsors of the race purse and handed a bottle of milk to the winner to promote their product. A sponsorship of currently $10,000 now paid out by the American Dairy Association if the winner sips the milk in victory lane. 

Today, instead of buttermilk, the winner is given a choice between whole milk, two percent and skim. Those bottles are held in a cooler by two selected Southern Indiana dairy farmers and are etched with the words “Indianapolis 500 winner,” making the bottles not just a beverage receptacle but a trophy in their own right. The drivers seem to like the milk, not just for what it represents, but because of its taste as well.

Dario Franchitti said in 2007 that the milk is: “Good. Really good. They chill it and it's very cold. I went for full fat inside and then I went outside in Victory Circle after the rain stopped and I had another bottle and I think that was 2%. That was good as well. I was liking the milk.”

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