Dairy industry highlighted during Indy 500 tradition

Photo provided by American Dairy Association Indiana

The winning driver of the Indy 500 will celebrate in Victory Circle with what’s been called the sport world’s coolest prize: a bottle of milk.

A bottle of milk presentation has been part of Victory Circle ceremonies for portions of 10 decades. Louis Meyer, the race’s first three-time winner, is the driver who began the tradition by requesting a cold glass of buttermilk following his victory in 1933. He was photographed drinking milk when he won again in 1936. Milk was presented off and on for several years until it became a permanent part of the post-race celebration in 1956 by Speedway owner Anton “Tony” Hulman.

The tradition showcases the dairy industry with an Indiana dairy producer handing off the ice-cold bottle of milk to the winning driver.

Jill Houin is American Dairy Association Indiana’s veteran milk presenter.

“I’m so excited I can taste it. Last year I got to hand out the milk to the winner and I was super excited, and I had to be excited because there weren’t fans (because of COVID-19 restrictions),” she says. “This year the opportunity to celebrate in a safe way with everyone in the stands, working so hard on the dairy farm to produce nutritious milk, the winner working so hard to have that moment, and then I get to hand the bottle of milk to the winner of the Indy 500 – it’s just crazy and I’m so excited.”  

She tells Brownfield she is humbled to be part of the tradition that continued through COVID-related challenges.

“It’s still celebrated, and the winner is still super excited to work hard and take that bottle out of my hand—it’s humbling to think about,” she says.

Tim Haynes is this year’s rookie milk presenter.

“The amount of excitement in that winner’s circle and seeing them drink that milk as a dairy farmer—you can’t feel anymore honored,” he says.

The tradition provides an opportunity for dairy producers to share their story.

“Dairy farmers have been working so hard during this tough time donating to food pantries and donating to schools with coolers that will house ice cold milk for the kids and for families that didn’t have an opportunity to get food for them,” Houin says. “Farmers are amazing, and I’m so honored to be able to represent Indiana dairy farmers in the winner’s circle and I’m proud I had the opportunity to marry into a dairy family.”

Houin is calf manager of her family’s operation—Homestead Dairy in Plymouth. Haynes operates Superior Dairy in Garrett.

On Tuesday, American Dairy Association Indiana honored Pietro Fittipaldi – grandson of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi – as the recipient of the 47th annual Fastest Rookie of the Year Award. The celebration was transitioned from its usual luncheon format to a virtual program again this year because of COVID-19.

“It’s a huge honor—there’s so much history in the speedway as well as with this award,” he says. “It’s amazing to be part of it.”

The 24-year-old from Brazil posted a four-lap average speed of 230.846 miles per hour in Car No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware RacingDallara/Honda/ Firestone. 

The Fastest Rookie program was started by ADAI to introduce drivers to the tradition of drinking milk in Victory Circle. The only other rookie driver in this year’s field – Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand – also participated in the virtual event.

The drivers are asked for their milk preferences before the race. Twenty-one drivers, including Fittipaldi, selected whole milk, 12 drivers chose two percent, two wrote in Buttermilk, and one picked chocolate milk.

The Indy 500 will take place Sunday.

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