IndyCar 101: Indy 500 traditions

INDIANAPOLIS - Whether or not you're a race fan, the traditions surrounding the Indianapolis 500 are as rich as a slice of Hoosier sugar cream pie.

Speaking of pie, probably one of the most famous traditions linked to the Indy 500 is the Victory Lane milk. This tradition started back in 1936 when three-time Indy 500 winner Louis Meyer drank a "refreshing" glass of buttermilk in Victory Lane.  A milk executive pounced on the commercial opportunity to feature of photo of Meyer drinking milk in the sports section of a newspaper and the rest, as they say, is history.

Leading up to the big race, fans traditionally tailgate on the north end of Georgetown Road in the Coke Lot. Here, you'll find rows of RVs and campers. Fans pack the Coke Lot early on to avoid long lines into the Speedway. A Coca-Cola plant is nearby at 25th and Georgetown, hence the lot's namesake.

Just before the drivers fire up their engines, you can hear the traditional song "(Back Home Again in) Indiana." Since 1972, actor Jim Nabors has performed the song (only missing a couple of years). The song is now synonymous with the Indy 500.

As the crowd joins in to sing the final notes of the song, hundreds of colorful balloons can be seen floating from the Speedway. Race officials say Tony Hulman's wife, Mary Fendrich Hulman made a suggestion to release balloons right before the race back in 1947 and the tradition continues on today.

Since 1936, the winner of the Indy 500 has been awarded the Borg-Warner Trophy. The recognizable trophy features small bas-relief sculptures of every Indy 500 winner, and a new winner has been added to the trophy every year. According to IMS officials, "The only sculptured face not of a winning driver is that of the late Speedway owner Tony Hulman, whose likeness, in gold, was placed on the base in 1987."

More about Indy 500 traditions here.

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