will power pours milk on himself after winning 2018 indy 500
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The Indy 500 Milk-Drinking Tradition Dates Way Back to 1936

Like most sports, professional auto racing has plenty of strange and longstanding traditions. At the Indy 500, they drink milk.

Like most sports, professional auto racing has plenty of strange and longstanding traditions. On the NASCAR side of things, you've got the Grandfather Clock trophy at Martinsville Speedway and the kissing of the bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Speaking of IMS, perhaps one of the weirdest traditions in racing comes from IndyCar, specifically the Indy 500. As the race winner receives the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy, they also engage in a time-honored celebration at "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing": they drink milk.

Why Do Indy 500 Winners Drink Milk?

al unser drinks milk after winning 1970 indianapolis 500

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Where does this drinking milk tradition come from anyway? Why don't the winners drink water or Gatorade or even take a swig of celebratory champagne?

According to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it all dates back to 1936 and was originated by Louis Meyer. Apparently, the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner often drank buttermilk to refresh himself on a hot day. After winning the race in '36, Meyer saw that there was milk available in Victory Lane, and he decided to drink some.

Well, an executive with something called the Milk Foundation (yep, that was an actual thing) was so excited over the publicity that came from Meyer being photographed drinking the milk that he worked to make the practice an annual thing. And, so it has been ever since, save for a stretch between 1947-1955.

As you can probably imagine, IndyCar racers have come a long way from just drinking a glass of buttermilk. In fact, in recent years, drivers have actually given their milk preferences to the American Dairy Association of Indiana (the official milk delivery service of the Indy 500), should they win the big race. There are four options: whole milk, two-percent milk, fat-free milk, or no preference. Yeah, this whole milk-drinking tradition is clearly a pretty big deal.

As if the practice of drinking milk after a race weren't strange enough, the American Dairy Association of Indiana has designated "milk people" to give out the celebratory milk to the winning team. Yep, they're literally called "milk people."

They're actually dairy farmers, voted for by the ADAI board, with two-year terms. Who knew milk could be such a political enterprise? At the end of the race, the first-year milk person hands out the milk to the owner and mechanic, while the second-year milk person has the distinct honor of presenting the bottle of milk to the winning driver.

Now, I wonder what happens if an Indy 500 winner is lactose intolerant?

Drivers' Milk Preferences for the 2023 Indy 500

Tony Kanaan pours milk over his head as he celebrates in victory circle after winning the 2013 indy 500

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According to this year's ADAI milk preference poll, 28 drivers picked whole milk, three picked two percent, and two picked skim.

Whole Milk

  • Josef Newgarden
  • Scott McLaughlin
  • Patricio O'Ward
  • Felix Rosenqvist
  • Alexander Rossi
  • Marcus Ericsson
  • Scott Dixon
  • Alex Palou
  • Will Power
  • Santino Ferrucci
  • David Malukas
  • Conor Daly
  • Rinus Veekay
  • Ryan Hunter-Reay
  • Stefan Wilson
  • Colton Herta
  • Kyle Kirkwood
  • Devlin DeFrancesco
  • Jack Harvey
  • Ed Carpenter
  • Christian Lundgaard
  • R.C. Enerson
  • Sting Ray Robb
  • Simon Pagenaud
  • Tony Kanaan
  • Callum Ilott
  • Agustin Canapino
  • Marco Andretti

Two Percent

  • Helio Castroneves
  • Takuma Sato
  • Benjamin Pedersen


  • Romain Grosjean
  • Katherine Legge

MORE: 12 Fast Facts About the Indy 500 to Impress Your Friends With