This weekend marked the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with racer Simon Pagenaud taking the checkered flag after a battle in the final laps with Alexander Rossi. An elated Pagenaud was draped in the traditional wreath of flowers and then handed something many Indy 500 winners have received for the past 82 years—a glass bottle full of milk.
The tradition began more than eight decades ago with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer. Meyer regularly drank buttermilk to refresh himself on a hot day and happened to drink some out of habit in Victory Lane after winning the 1936 race. An executive in the dairy industry was so excited to see the photo in the sports section of the local newspaper that he promised to make sure it would be repeated in coming years. The tradition was revived for good in 1956 and has been a practice ever since.
Milk in Victory Lane
Every year, the American Dairy Association of Indiana has on hand three bottles of milk (nonfat, 2% percent and whole milk) that in the past have been delivered to the track by help of a police escort or even armored trucks. This year, Pagenaud chose whole milk and celebrated by pouring it all over his head.
The 2019 Indy 500 milk prize was supplied by the Kuehnert Dairy Farm, a family-run farm that is part of the Prairie Farms Dairy cooperative, an IDFA member.
“What an amazing experience to see such a competitive race,” said Dykes, who cheered for the victor from the stands. “For the Indy 500 winner to celebrate with nutritious whole milk just makes it all that more memorable for those of us out there fighting for U.S. dairy. I’m very grateful to Prairie Farms and the Kuehnert family.”
The farm has been in the Kuehnert family for more than 125 years and is run by fifth-generation farmers. “We get to see that calf from day one, the day it is born, all the way through their life cycle. We do absolutely anything and everything we can to make sure that animal is treated as good as it can be,” said Kuehnert.
This opportunity proved to be hugely sentimental for the Kuehnert family.
“I've been a big race fan. Always gone to the Indy 500 in my life. Never had the position and opportunity to do what I'm doing and I'm truly excited," he said.
When asked about his role in the Indy 500, Kuehnert said, “I am an honorary guest representing not only my family, but every dairy farmer in the world.”
credit American Dairy Association Indiana, Inc.