Indy 500 Winners Celebrate with Milk

May 27, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

By Chad Upton | Editor

Forget champagne this Sunday, one of the most popular car races in the world will award the winner an unusual prize: milk.

This Indiapolis 500 tradition was inspired by Louis Meyer. After winning his second Indy in 1933, he requested a glass of buttermilk. He requested another glass after his third win in 1936, but was given a bottle instead.

A photographer captured Meyer holding up three fingers, signifying his third win, and holding his glass of milk in the other hand. A dairy executive saw the photo and realized the marketing potential by promising the winner of future races a bottle of milk.

The tradition has persisted to this day, apart from 1947 to 1955 and two other exceptions when drivers declined to drink the milk. Most notably, in 1993, Emerson Fittipaldi drank orange juice instead of milk. He owned orange groves in his native Brazil and wanted to promote the citrus industry. The self promotion and break from tradition earned criticism from fans.

Although Meyer started the tradition with buttermilk, that’s not an official option — the winner can choose between skim, 2% or whole milk. However, the winner can buy a lot of buttermilk with the cash prize, estimated around $1.5 million.

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Photo: Tim Hohm (cc)

Sources: Wikipedia (Indy 500, Emerson Fittipaldi), Yahoo,

Entry filed under: Demystified, History and Origins. Tags: , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brett  |  June 21, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Great article. I still remember “Emmo” drinking OJ instead of milk when he won. I never had a problem with it. You should also write an article as to why they only wear white at Wimbledon.

  • 2. Ed Makan  |  July 22, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    Let them drink what they wish. I would prefer anything to milk. If it was raw milk, a greater possibility.
    Cow’s milk are for calves, not humans. Calves utilize the milk in its RAW form, not heated, pasteurized, etc. Milk is an imbalanced food for humans and its too mucus forming.


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