Got milk? The traditions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

With more than 100 years of racing, the IMS has a few unusual rituals

Milk for the winner

There have been all different types of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than 100 years! In a venue steeped in motor racing history you can expect a few traditions and rituals to have built up over the years. Here are some of the best...

A pint of milk for the winner
When the winner of the Indy 500 steps out of the car and is on Victory Lane, the tradition is for them to drink a glass of buttermilk, instead of champagne, as recognition of their win. This tradition began in 1936 when Louis Meyer won the Indy 500. When he entered Victory Lane, he was asked what he wanted to drink and legend has it that his mother had always told him that a glass of buttermilk would quench his thirst, so that's what he asked for. An executive with what was then the Milk Foundation was so elated when he saw the moment captured in a photograph in the sports section of his newspaper the following morning that he vowed to make sure it would be repeated in coming years.

Louis Meyer in 1936

In 1993, driver Emerson Fittipaldi caused an outcry when he broke from tradition and asked for orange juice instead. He owned orange groves in his native Brazil and wanted to promote the citrus industry. He was heavily criticised and drank the milk afterwards.

Alexander Rossi keeping with tradition at the 100th running of the Indy 500 in May 2016

Kissing the yard of bricks
When the IMS was being upgraded in 1909, 3.2 million paving bricks were laid over the original crushed-rock and tar surface. Nowadays the brick has been covered up with asphalt. The asphalt was gradually added to various sections of the brick surface, with patches added to rougher sections of the turns in 1936 and all turns being completely paved in 1937. In 1938, the entire track was paved with asphalt except for the middle portion of the start finish straight.

In October 1961, the remaining bricks on the start finish straight were covered with asphalt. A 36-inch strip of the original brick was kept intact at the start/finish line, where it remains today as the fabled Yard of Bricks.
The tradition of "kissing the bricks" was started by NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett. After his Brickyard 400 victory in 1996, Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott decided to walk out to the start-finish line, kneel and kiss the Yard of Bricks to pay tribute to the fabled history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team joined them for a group kiss of the bricks, and an Indianapolis tradition was born.

Kissing the bricks has become a strong tradition

The trophy to be seen on
The Borg-Warner Trophy is quite possibly as famous as the race itself. In 1935, the Borg-Warner Automotive Company (now called BorgWarner) commissioned designer Robert J. Hill and Spaulding-Gorham of Chicago, to create the trophy at a cost of $10,000. It was unveiled at a dinner in New York in February 1936, featuring bas-relief sculptures of every "500" winner up until that time. The new winner has been added every year since, and in 1986 (the trophy's 50th anniversary), the final space became filled. The solution for 1987 was to add a base, but this too became filled, and in 2004, an even larger version replaced it. This one has enough spaces to last until 2034. The only sculptured face not of a winning driver is that of the late Speedway racer Tony Hulman, whose likeness, in gold, was placed on the base in 1987.

The Borg-Warner Trophy

This weekend will see the Red Bull Air Race make its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and potentially begin its own tradition. Tickets are still available – get yours HERE!