Mario Andretti accepts the Fastest Rookie award in place of Kurt Busch, who couldn’t attend the award ceremony. Busch earned the honor by driving four laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an average speed of 230.782 mph.
Mario Andretti accepts the Fastest Rookie award in place of Kurt Busch, who couldn’t attend the award ceremony. Busch earned the honor by driving four laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with an average speed of 230.782 mph.
INDIANAPOLIS — Drivers in the Indianapolis 500 all have something in common: They want to be the one greeted with a bottle of milk in the Victory Circle.

Showing just how closely related the dairy and racing industry are, the 40th annual Fastest Rookie of the Year award luncheon celebrated the incoming rookie class, as well as the milk-drinking tradition.

This year’s event, hosted by the American Dairy Association of Indiana, honored Kurt Busch with the title of fastest rookie. The NASCAR regular won the award by qualifying his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Suretone Honda at a four-lap average speed of 230.782 mph, earning him a 12th place starting spot.

Busch’s name will be inscribed on the Fastest Rookie trophy to be on permanent display in the speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum. Busch also received $5,000 from Indiana’s dairy farm families.

Also honored at the luncheon were the six other rookies: Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Huertas, Sage Karam, James Davidson, Martin Plowman and Jack Hawksworth.

Long-Running Event

The annual program is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s longest running under the same sponsorship. More than 300 guests, including representatives from the dairy industry, the rookies and others, attended.

Vince Welch, a pit reporter for ESPN and ABC Sports, emceed the program, something he has done for 16 years.

Mayor Greg Ballard congratulated the rookies and talked about the tradition of the race. Ballard said whenever he travels and people hear he is from Indianapolis, the first thing they mention is the Indianapolis 500.

“I want all rookies to have a good race — it’s very special to our city,” he said.

A video played showing the tradition of the milk presentation in Victory Circle, which has taken place for 80 years.

The tradition started when Louis Meyer, the race’s first three-time winner, requested a drink of buttermilk following his victory in 1933. The tradition was made permanent in 1956.

The winner of this year’s race will be greeted by the American Dairy Association of Indiana’s 2014 Milkmen, dairy farmers Ken Hoeing of Rush County and Alan Wright of Muncie.

Hoeing’s advice to the rookies was to have a safe race, have fun and god speed.

Wright spoke of the similarities between the dairy and racing industry by saying both take teamwork.

“We’ll be waiting on you in the winner’s circle,” Hoeing said.

Fast Lane

Busch, who was unable to make it to the award luncheon, said in a video that it was a prestigious award to beat the rookies and post the fastest time.

“It comes from a lot of hard work,” he said.

Accepting the award in his place was Mario Andretti, the 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner. Andretti spoke of his impression of Busch, saying he took to the open wheel and speedway like a duck to water.

“He has a new appreciation for Indiana,” Andretti said.

He also talked about the importance of the race for the rookies.

“As a rookie, you only get one chance,” he said. “A good performance here can be life-changing.”

Rookies agreed that there is something special about the race.

“There is no other place like Indianapolis in May,” said Kareem, a 19-year-old rookie from Pennsylvania who missed his high school prom to be in Indianapolis.

The event concluded when rookies were given milk bottles and the room joined in for a milk toast to the race.