Drinking a celebratory glass of milk after winning the Indy 500 is one of the many great traditions of the race. It started in 1933 when Louis Meyer, after winning his second Indy 500, had a tall glass of buttermilk in victory lane to cool off. Apparently, his mother told him the best thing to drink on a hot summer day is buttermilk.
This story was originally published on 5/23/2018 and has been updated with comment from IndyCar, driver James Hinchcliffe, and a representative for Ed Carpenter. - Ed.
Today, the American Dairy Association of Indiana has all 33 drivers in the 500 pick what kind of milk they want, should they win the race. The drivers have a choice between whole, two-percent, and fat-free milk. Conspicuously absent? Buttermilk.
Last year, driver Ed Carpenter said he'd prefer buttermilk if he won, and this year he did the same. James Hinchcliffe also "wishes he could chose buttermilk," according to by Winners Drink Milk.
We couldn't help but wonder why buttermilk isn't an option. We thought the American Dairy Association of Indiana might've been on a quixotic quest against buttermilk. Or perhaps there was a larger conspiracy from Big Dairy. Thankfully, the real reason isn't quite so nefarious. A spokeswoman from Winners Drink Milk explained why it's not yet a choice in a statement provided to Road & Track via email:
For the past several years, only three white milk options have been offered: Whole, Two-Percent and Fat-Free. The last two years, there’s become more of an interest to add buttermilk, and honestly, we would consider adding it under one circumstance— if the drivers requesting it will drink a glass of buttermilk beforehand! We want to make sure they know what it tastes like before potentially drinking it in Victory Circle!
Honestly, buttermilk back when Louis Meyer drank it was a totally different product than the buttermilk we know today.
IndyCar echoed Winners Drink Milk's response:
Long story short - buttermilk is made and used differently now than it was back when the tradition first started. Ultimately they created the poll options with more “refreshing” milk choices that are a little easier on the drivers thirst/stomach’s when they get out of a race car after a 3-hour race.
Likely story. But when asked, driver James Hinchcliffe agreed that he should be able to have buttermilk if he wins the race:
Louis Meyer started the milk tradition and he drank buttermilk, so that’s why I want it! There are a lot of quirky things we still do at Indy in the name of tradition, and I think we should keep this one, too! I went with whole milk because it’s the closest to buttermilk. I know it tastes awful, but if it was good enough for Louis, it’s good enough for us!
We're with Hinch. As is Ed Carpenter, according to a statement from his spokesperson:
I can’t speak on behalf of the American Dairy Association but I can confirm Buttermilk is NOT offered as a choice. We can only chose between whole, two-percent, and fat free (skim).
Every year we send in Ed’s request for buttermilk, which gets printed, so we are curious if they will have one for him… Hopefully we will find out on Sunday afternoon!
Anywho, racers in this year's 500 who aren't willing to question Big Dairy and its unwillingness to serve buttermilk overwhelmingly chose whole milk, while 10 picked two-percent, and just one, Marcus Ericsson, picked fat-free. Just like last year, Will Power, the defending race winner, doesn't care what kind of milk he gets. Let's make sure it's buttermilk.