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
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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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.