Why Does The Indianapolis 500 Winner Drink Milk?

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The Indianapolis 500 is one of the strongest traditions in American sports, and the winner always drinks milk in Victory Lane.

It’s a unique tradition that started in 1936 when Louis Meyer drank buttermilk in Victory Lane because his mother said it would refresh him on a hot day, IndyStar reports.

A dairy industry executive saw a marketing opportunity and milk has been part of every race since 1956. There’s one problem — Meyer drank buttermilk and the American Dairy Association Indiana won’t let drivers drink buttermilk.

The tradition was repeated for the next few years, but took a brief hiatus between 1946-1955 when milk was no longer offered at the speedway, Sporting News reports. The winner has had an ice-cold bottle of milk every year since then.

INDIANAPOLIS – MAY 25: Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda, drinks the ceremonial winner’s milk over in victory lane in celebration of winning the IRL IndyCar Series 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 25, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The drivers are asked for their milk preferences before the race: fat-free, 2% or whole milk. Whole milk is the most popular choice by the drivers, WinnersDrinkMilk.com states. “Winners Drink Milk” is considered one of the most beloved phrases and traditions in Indiana and all of sports.

Written by Megan Turner

Megan graduated from the University of Central Florida and writes and tweets about anything related to sports. She replies to comments she shouldn't reply to online and thinks the CFP Rankings are absolutely rigged. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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  1. ‘Milk’ is a way more controversial topic than most realize.
    As you so aptly pointed out, Meg, the original winner drank buttermilk – in 1936.
    I honestly don’t know the difference between buttermilk and today’s ‘milk,’ but I’m pretty sure that anything 1936 does a body WAY more good than today’s ‘milk.’
    In my humble, father of home birthed boys, midwife educated and influenced opinion: the only milk we need is mama’s breast milk for the first couple years and then no more….

    • Animal fats, including/especially those provided by milk, still help to develop a child’s brain into puberty. It’s still an excellent source of calcium and protein.
      Buttermilk is highly acidic, which is why it is used as a marinade/soak for fried chicken recipes, as well as batters for baked goods.

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