ORLANDO, Fla. – Victory Lane is home to one of the longest traditions in sports, and it won’t expire anytime soon.
A winning driver crosses the finish line, drinks a big bottle of milk and pours it over himself. But the cold privilege that first-ever Japanese winning driver Takuma Sato had experienced on Sunday like so many others before him have earned is more than just a reward for driving past the checkered flag; it’s a tradition.
Going back to 1936, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer found himself in Victory Lane. According to USA Today, it was a hot day and as a personal favorite, Meyer drank his bottle of buttermilk to refresh himself. So when an executive from the Milk Foundation saw a photo of Meyer in his newspaper’s sports section, he made it a mission to have the event repeated at every race.
The tradition would stick, happening every year, with the exception of the years from 1947-1955 when milk was not available. But what keeps the winning racers mooing for more is the beefy reward that comes in a bottle and the process behind it.
According to the article, “milk people,” or dairy farmers voted in by a board of their peers, hand out the milk. While the second-year member gives the milk to the mechanic and the owner, the “rookie” hands the milk to the winning driver.
“The milk people are Indiana dairy farmers, and they take much pride in this responsibility,” American Dairy Association Inc. spokeswoman Jenni Browning told USA Today. “They work 24/7 being a dairy farmer, taking care of their cows every day, and become very passionate about creating a wholesome food to help feed their community. So, to be able to provide that very product, they produce to a race car driver who has worked so hard to get where they are, it’s a very special moment in time.”
But race car drivers don’t all drink the same milk. From 2 percent to whole milk and…