Sunday, May 30, 2010

Life In the Fast Lane

Magnet # 255: Indianapolis Speedway

Material: Rubber

Purchased By: Dad

Once again, Indianapolis, Indiana is revving up for its biggest event of the year - the Indianapolis 500. It's almost always held on the Memorial Day Weekend and this year, the green flag signaling the start of the race will be waved by actor Jack Nicholson. This year is the 94th annual run of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and 33 cars will be on the field to sun 200 laps, as has been the tradition for many years. The betting favorites this year are New Zealander Scott Dixon, who won the 2008 race, and Helio Castroneves, a Brazilian who has won this race three times before. That two men from very far points of the globe could be contenders to win this race shows just how fat the Indy 500 has progressed over just about a century, and that it truly has risen to prominence on an international level.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500, was built back in 1909 and is now celebrating its centennial era. It has a two and a half mile track that was at first used to race motorcycles, but later moved onto cars. The first official 500 race was held on Memorial Day in 1911, and it would go on to become the standard in automobile racing. Over the years, many eras in racing sprang up at the track, and it was the site of triumphant victories as well as shocking accidents and occasional deaths. And as time continued, the racing vehicles evolved into some of the fastest on four wheels. In fact, this magnet does a pretty good job showing the progression of the styles of cars featured in the races. One of the more interesting traditions about the Indy 500 is that the winner is presented not with a blanket of roses or glass of champagne, but a bottle of milk. This dates back to 1933, when winner Louis Meyer asked for a glass of buttermilk after his first win. He continued to do so after subsequent wins, and a dairy executive eventually saw an image of Meyer drinking from a bottle of buttermilk and holding up three of his fingers, for the trio of victories he'd had at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Inspiration hit, and a bottle of milk, not buttermilk, began to be presented to the winner - either whole, 2%, or skim, depending on his preference. You wouldn't think this was such an important part of the race, but when the tradition was broken, it proved to be. The 1993 winner Emerson Fittipaldi from Brazil drank a glass of orange juice rather that milk, which many viewed as a shameless move of self-promotion, as he owned orange groves in his native land. This move infuriated so many and was so mocked that he later had to drink a little milk, even though the cameras were off. However, he did not appease racing fans and was booed and jeered at events for weeks after. So no matter who wins this year's Indy 500, I'm pretty sure he - or she - will accept that bottle of milk and have a nice sip. After all, it does a body - and a racer - good.


  1. Since I love to have a glass of milk with breakfast each morning, I say hurray to a tradition in such a machismo setting that extols the virtue of milk.

  2. They're definitely sending a better message to impressionable fans than drinking alcohol would.