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The Fascinating Tradition: Unveiling the Real Reason Behind the Indy 500 Winner’s Milk Celebration

The real reason Indy 500 winner celebrates with milk

The Indianapolis 500, also known as the Indy 500, is one of the most prestigious and iconic races in the world. It has a long and storied history filled with thrilling moments, legendary drivers and unique traditions. One such tradition that has captured the attention and curiosity of fans is the celebration of the Indy 500 winner with a glass of milk. Have you ever wondered why milk became the champion’s beverage of choice? Let’s explore the real reason behind this fascinating tradition.

A tradition steeped in history

The roots of the Milk Celebration tradition date back to 1936 when Louis Meyer, winner of that year’s Indy 500, decided to quench his thirst with a glass of buttermilk after his victory. It was not a random choice, but rather a nod to his mother’s advice. The tradition caught on, and for many years, race winners have enjoyed a refreshing glass of milk in Victory Lane. It’s interesting to note, however, that the tradition took a brief hiatus from 1947 to 1955.

Provided by The Milk Foundation

Since its inception, the Milk Foundation has played a vital role in maintaining this unique tradition. According to the Indy Star, when the first-place driver arrives in Victory Lane, he or she is presented with an ice-cold bottle of milk. The Milk Foundation makes sure that there are three different options for the winners: whole milk, 2%, and nonfat. It’s worth noting, however, that traditional buttermilk is not one of the choices. This is because “modern buttermilk” does not resemble the original holiday beverage, which is very similar to whole milk.

Breaking with tradition

While the Indy 500’s celebration of milk is deeply ingrained in the race’s culture, there was a notable departure from tradition in 1993. Emerson Fittipaldi, the winner of that year’s race, decided to break the mold and celebrate with a different beverage. Instead of milk, Fittipaldi chose orange juice to support the orange growers in Brazil. This departure from long-standing tradition sparked controversy and angered many traditionalists. Fittipaldi eventually took a sip of milk to appease the fans and apologized for the deviation from the norm.

A beloved tradition

Despite occasional deviations, the Indy 500 Milk Celebration remains a beloved and cherished tradition among racing enthusiasts. It has become synonymous with victory and serves as a symbol of achievement and triumph. The sight of the winning driver pouring milk from the iconic glass bottle is a moment fans eagerly anticipate each year. While there may be a few spills along the way, the joy and excitement associated with this tradition is truly unparalleled.

Milk preference among winners

It’s interesting to note that not only is the Milk Celebration a cherished tradition, but it also reflects the milk preferences of the winners. According to IndyStar, more than 50% of Americans prefer the type of milk offered to the winners. reports that at least 20 past winners have expressed a preference for this particular type of milk, further cementing its importance in the celebration.
In conclusion, celebrating the Indy 500 winner with milk is a tradition that has stood the test of time. From its humble beginnings in 1936 to becoming an iconic symbol of victory, the tradition has captured the hearts and minds of racing fans around the world. The Milk Foundation’s involvement ensures that winners are presented with a refreshing glass of milk as a symbol of their triumph. While there have been occasional deviations, the tradition remains deeply cherished and the sight of milk pouring from the bottle continues to be a moment of immense joy and celebration.


Why do Indy 500 winners celebrate with milk?

The tradition of celebrating with milk began in 1936 when winner Louis Meyer chose to drink buttermilk after his victory. Since then, it has become a cherished tradition that symbolizes triumph and achievement.

Who provides the milk for the winner of the Indy 500?

The Milk Foundation is responsible for providing milk to the Indy 500 winner. They ensure that the winner receives an ice-cold bottle of milk, with options including whole, 2% and fat-free milk.

Why is traditional buttermilk not an option?

Traditional buttermilk is not offered as a choice because “modern buttermilk” is very different from the original holiday beverage, which is very similar to whole milk. The Milk Foundation is committed to providing choices that are close to the original tradition.

Has there ever been a break in the Milk Celebration tradition?

Yes, there was a break in the tradition from 1947 to 1955. However, since that time, the Milk Celebration has continued as a beloved and iconic tradition of the Indy 500.

Has the winner ever celebrated with a beverage other than milk?

Yes, in 1993 Emerson Fittipaldi broke with tradition and drank orange juice instead of milk. This decision was made to show support for the orange farmers in Brazil. Fittipaldi eventually took a sip of milk to appease the fans and uphold the tradition.

Do all winners prefer the type of milk offered?

While not all winners have publicly expressed their preferences, it’s worth noting that more than 50% of Americans prefer the type of milk offered to champions. At least 20 past winners have also expressed a preference for this particular type of milk.

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