Milk and Racing: The Indy 500’s Strange Obsession With Milk

By | February 28, 2019

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Scott Dixon drinks the ceremonial winner's milk over in victory lane in celebration of winning the 2008 Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Source: (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

In May, racing fans turn their attention to Indianapolis for the annual race that has been held there since 1911—the Indianapolis 500. The sporting event is steeped in history and tradition, but none as strange as the one in which the race’s winner chugs a bottle of milk as soon as they cross the finish line. As sports traditions go, this one is weird, even if it does promote healthy bones. Let us look at how the Indy 500’s milk obsession began and what it means to the racing event today. 

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In 1933, Louis Meyer started the tradition of drinking milk at the Indy 500. Source: (

Louis Meyer Started the Milk Tradition By Accident

The Indianapolis 500 had been running milk-free for more than twenty years when the milk guzzling tradition began. When it did start, it was unintentional. Louis Meyer won the Indy 500 three times, in 1928, 1933, and 1936. The race is long and hot and exhausting so Meyer did what his mother suggested—he drank ice-cold buttermilk after each race. His milk sipping went unnoticed after his 1928 victory but caught the media’s attention with his second win a few years later. Photographers snapped pics of Meyer and his milk and the images appeared in newspapers across the country. When Meyer won his third Indy 500 in 1936, he repeated his milk drinking, to the delight of the crowds. Since then, it has been a tradition for every Indy 500 winner.