29.05.2021 Off By Yurii Vyhranenko

It’s a frequent but simple question some people have about the Indianapolis 500: Why does the winner drink milk?

Simply answear, it’s tradition. And the Indy 500 is all about tradition.

After taking the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in one of the biggest motor sports races in the world, the winning driver is draped with a giant flowered wreath and handed a bottle of ice-cold milk. The winner typically takes a couple sips, poses for a few quick photos and then proceeds to dump the rest of the bottle on their head- sometimes pouring milk on others nearby.


The whole process makes for some truly spectacular photos, but how and when did this odd tradition start? It’s largely thanks to Louis Meyer back in the 1930s.

So if a big bottle of milk on a typically warm or hot Indiana day after several hours of intense racing sounds unappealing, blame Meyer. But although he drank buttermilk, that’s not one of the options for drivers anymore.

The American Dairy Association Indiana is in charge of delivering the bottle of milk to the winner, and before every Indy 500, it polls the drivers to see what their preferred celebratory milk choice would be. But the options are simple: Whole, 2 percent or skim. However, there’s always a write-in or two on the survey with drivers sometimes hoping for chocolate, strawberry or even buttermilk.


“It’s a tradition. Not everybody enjoys milk but just because it’s happening at that point and because it’s got that meaning, all of a sudden milk tastes very good, even if you’re lactose.”

Mario Andretti

For the 2021 Indy 500, the majority of drivers selected whole milk, which is typical, and no one chose skim. However, Ed Carpenter and Simona de Silvestro wrote in buttermilk, while Juan Pablo Montoya wrote in chocolate.

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