This Year’s Indy 500: Where Milk Chugging, Tire Bonfires, and Chris Pine Meet

1969checkeredflag-3aed1dda-0caa-436c-944a-d2f00f7dd92d
 


The Indy 500 enjoys its 100th running this year and is expecting a centennial-worthy crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with a sold-out audience that bests 300,000 fans. This means that for the first time since 1950 race fans across the state of Indiana will be able to watch the Indy 500 on TV for the first time (historically, a television blackout was used to encourage ticket sales), breaking a custom nearly as old as the winning driver drinking milk in the victory lane. Here’s your primer on all the other traditions (new and old) you can expect to see this Sunday. 

1. Milk is the drink of choice for every winner. 

It all started in 1933 after Louis Meyer won his second Indy 500, he requested a cold bottle of buttermilk to quench his thirst. Three years later, Meyer won his third title and, this time, was photographed with his milk bottle. Except for a stretch from 1947 to 1955, milk has been presented ever since. Today, however, instead of buttermilk, the winner is given a choice between whole milk, 2 percent, and skim. Those bottles are held in a cooler by two local dairy farmers and are etched with the words “Indianapolis 500 winner.”

2. The pace car this year will be driven by Roger Penske.

Perhaps one of the most famous names in motorsports, Roger Penske will be behind the wheel of the pace car at the start of the Indy 500 in celebration of Team Penske’s 50th Anniversary. Team Penske will also attempt to win their 17th Indy 500 — more Indy 500 victories than any other team.

3. Chris Pine is really into the Indianapolis 500. 

So much so, Chris Pine will in fact be waving the green flag to start the 100th running. Other stars at the race include Blake Shelton, who is performing before the race on Saturday.

4. There’s another Andretti in it to win it …

Marco Andretti, the third generation driver, will attempt to become just the second Andretti to win the Indy 500. His grandfather, Mario, drove to victory circle in 1969 (without changing his right rear race tire for the entire 500 miles) 46 years ago. Combined, the Andretti family has nearly 70 attempts at the Indy 500, but only one victory.

5.  But not if James Hinchcliffe has anything to say about it.

Last year, James Hinchcliffe crashed during Indy 500 practice, sustaining life-threatening injuries to his lower body. He did not return to competition in 2015, as he recovered and prepared for the 2016 season. In his return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500, the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver qualified on the pole for the 100th running — the first pole position of his career.

6. Only one brand of tire is allowed on the track. 

A total of 33 drivers will be competing in the Indy 500, all of whom will be riding on tires by Firestone, the Indy 500’s official tire partner. Overall, Firestone will supply 5,000 tires for this 100th running. 

7. And there’s a private tire bonfire after the race.

All tires — which are individually serialized and not allowed outside of the race for any purpose — are burned for fuel at the same kiln in Indiana that the U.S. government burns old money (really).

8. There’s only so much advantage to pole position. 

The last four Indy 500 winners have started outside the Top 10. Four of the six previous Indy 500 winners in this year’s field are starting outside of the Top 10: Scott Dixon (13th), Juan Pablo Montoya (17th), Tony Kanaan (18th), and Buddy Lazier (32nd).

9. And women are more than welcome to race.

Pippa Mann, driver for Dale Coyne Racing, will make her fifth-career start at the Indy 500. This year marks the 17th consecutive year that a female driver will race in the Indy 500.

10. Nearly a half-dozen racers are in it to break a record.

Among them are Andretti; Hinchcliffe; Team Penske; Juan Pablo Montoya, who will attempt to become the first driver to win the Indy 500 in back-to-back years since 2002; and Simon Pagenaud, who will attempt to win four races in a row and become the first driver to complete the Indianapolis Sweep, having won Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May.