This Sunday, 33 drivers will strap themselves into purpose-built racing machines to battle each other at speeds over 220 mph for 500 miles. The eventual winner of the Indianapolis 500 will receive a check for over $3 million, the race’s pace car, a wreath and a bottle of milk. The type of milk is selected by the driver before the race, without knowing if they will be the one to set foot in victory lane. Data from over the past decade shows there are a few coincidences between milk preference and the race’s eventual winner.
The Grueling Truth has correlated the data from the American Dairy Association Indiana’s milk preference surveys from the last ten editions of the Indianapolis 500. Drivers are asked if they would prefer skim, two percent, whole milk or if they don’t have a preference.
The first trend that stands out is that the choices overall don’t align with race victories. For example, whole milk is selected by 52 percent of drivers but only accounts for 30 percent of wins.
Second, every choice has won the Indy 500 except for one. Over the past decade, a driver has never selected skim milk and won the legendary race. Two percent is the most successful choice, with six of the last ten Indy 500 wins despite only being chosen by 36 percent of drivers. Australian driver Will Power had no preference going into his win in 2018.
The tradition of drinking milk in victory lane at the Indy 500 stemmed from three-time winner Louis Meyer asking for a bottle of buttermilk after his second victory in 1933. Meyer said that while growing up his mother told him to drink buttermilk to cool down on hot days. The practice became a tradition during the 1950s with sponsorship from the dairy industry.
This year, Romain Grosjean and Katherine Legge are the only drivers in the race to select skim milk. The preferences are new for both drivers as each selected whole milk when they last started the race, Grosjean in 2022 and Legge in 2013. As much as I would like to see the skim milk drought end, a victory by either driver would be historic for far more important reasons. It would be Grosjean’s first victory in IndyCar since his move into the series from Formula 1. Legge would be the first woman to win the Indianapolis 500 as a driver.