The Indianapolis 500 is rich in traditions, but none is more endearing than the one that began with a simple request at the end of the race in 1936. The singing of Back Home Again in Indiana, the balloons launched before the start of the race, and the Borg-Warner trophy all hold a special place in Indy 500 lore, but Louis Meyer’s request for a bottle of buttermilk is the one tradition that spectators and drivers consider extra special.
“It’s a very unique situation where you have the racing industry then also the dairy industry come together at that very moment. It’s quite an honor for the dairy farmer,” said Jenni Browning with the American Dairy Association Indiana. Each year, two Indiana dairy farmers are selected by the ADA Indiana board to be in Victory Circle to hand the bottle of milk to the winning driver.
“So this year our “milkman” who gets to give the bottle is Joe Kelsey from Whiteland, Indiana, Kelsey Farms and our “rookie” milk person is Kim Minich and she’s a dairy farmer from LaPorte.”
While Louis Meyer requested buttermilk, Browning says drivers in the 2017 Indy 500 have a choice.
“We do do a survey for the drivers to see If they want skim, 2%, or whole milk. The most common is 2%, but we’re seeing a trend upward in whole milk.”
Winning drivers of the Indy 500 have taken a big drink of ice-cold milk in Victory Circle since 1956 when Tony Holman made it a permanent part of the victory circle celebration.
The 101st running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will be held on May 28.