The Most Weird, Wonderful, and Downright Wacky Indy 500 Traditions

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Genevieve Fraser
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 3 min read
The Indy 500 has been an integral part of the annual events calendar for Indianapolis and the greater racing community since 1911.
Typically scheduled for the
Memorial Day weekend
, the event draws over 250,000 spectators who come to watch
IndyCars
rocketing around the 2.5-mile track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
But watching the race itself isn't the only spectacle; the event that goes down in
car history
as the “greatest spectacle in racing” is complemented by a host of traditions that loyal attendees have come to adore. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most venerated Indy 500 traditions, according to
iExplore
.
There are plenty of traditions surrounding the Indy 500.

Carb Day: one of the Indy 500’s most famous pre-race traditions

Don't start salivating, because the Indy 500's Carb Day doesn’t actually have anything to do with carbohydrates. Far from that, Carb Day stands for Carburetor or Carburetion Day.
Although foodies may be disappointed,
car enthusiasts
are thrilled by the chance to see racing teams tuning up their cars for the last time in preparation for the big race.
Carburetors have become obsolete thanks to the invention of fuel injectors, according to iExplore, and
The Indianapolis Star
confirmed that they haven’t been included in Indy 500 cars since 1963. Nevertheless, the name and tradition of the event remain.
The scheduling of Carb Day has changed throughout the years, but it now takes place on the Friday of Memorial Weekend (and the day before
Legends Day
) in preparation for the big race on Sunday.
A closed practice until the ‘50s, today Carb Day is a large public event complete with a Pit Stop Challenge, practice laps for drivers, and
performances by musical artists
.

How about a glass of milk for the Indy 500 winner?

Surprisingly, Indy 500 winners don't pop bottles of champagne like their
Formula 1
racing counterparts. Instead, they chug down a glass of milk. So how did this become an Indy 500 tradition?
According to iExplore, it started from a pearl of old-fashioned wisdom passed down to three-time winner Louis Meyer by his mother. She believed that buttermilk keeps you hydrated on hot days.
Naturally, you’d need some hydration after winning the adrenaline-inducing Indy 500. Little did Meyer know that the glass he drank upon winning the Indy in 1936 would spark a decades-long tradition.
When images of the celebration hit the newspapers, a dairy executive took note. Could there be a better advertising opportunity? The practice eventually became an official tradition in 1956, with each year’s winner offered a cold glass of milk.
Only Emerson Fittipaldi strayed from tradition when he chose to drink orange juice after winning the 1993 Indy 500.

Bask in the traditional melody of "Back Home Again in Indiana"

"Back Home Again in Indiana" has been synonymous with the Hoosier State for years.
One might even mistake it for Indiana's state song because it has been the Indy 500's pre-race anthem since 1946, according to the official website of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
.
To the excitement of fans far and wide, thousands of multi-colored balloons are released into the Indianapolis skies as the final notes of the tune ring out, precipitating the long-awaited start of the iconic race.

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