Why Does the Indianapolis 500 Winner Drink Milk?

Indy 500 tradition: Some drivers choose to drink the milk while others drench themselves in it

Every sport has its quirky traditions. Hockey players grow beards in the postseason, baseball players don’t talk about a pitcher when he’s perfect, and Indy 500 victors drink milk in the Winner’s Circle.

The Indy 500 is chock full of tradition, but only one driver gets to participate in getting a whole bottle of chilled milk effectively thrown in their face.

The practice has topped off every race since 1956, but its roots actually run deeper…

Like any great story, this one has escalation. Louis Meyer began the hallowed tradition of milk drinking after his second Indy 500 win in 1933. He sipped from a glass of milk, saying his mother had told him a glass of buttermilk was the best thing to drink on a hot day.

Indianapolis 500 Legend Louis Meyer circa 1928

After his third win in 1936, Meyer abandoned all sense of decorum. He took a swig of milk straight from the bottle, likely disgusting everyone there rather than inspiring awe. A photographer snapped a picture of Meyer drinking said milk, and it spawned a tradition like no other.

It wasn’t until 1956, however, that the practice truly took hold. Drivers now do it every year, but between 1946 and 1955 there was a hiatus. Today, every driver is polled before the race on their preference, and they can choose from whole, 2 percent, and skim milk.

Why did Emmerson Fittipaldi drink orange juice?

One driver decided to get cute with the tradition, and as George Bluth Sr. would say, it may have resulted in some light treason.

Emmerson Fittipaldi, who owns an orange grove, drank orange juice in the winner’s circle in 1993 before quickly chasing it with the traditional milk. Not for nothing, but that is a disgusting combination.

Fittipaldi was booed for his crimes, but he got the last laugh. He was honored by the American Dairy Association of Indiana last year. Let no one accuse our Big Milk overlords of not having a sense of humor.

INDIANAPOLIS – MAY 30: Brazil’s Emerson Fittipaldi gestures while standing and posing for cameras in his Indy car during time trials for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 30, 1993, in Indianapolis, Indiana.