When Dan Wheldon pulled into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500 this past weekend, Indiana dairy farmers Richard Thomas of Leann Acres, Middlebury, Ind., and David Forgey of Foerg & Forgey’s River-View Farm, Logansport, Ind., were there to greet him with a bottle of ice cold milk.

According to a spokesperson for the Indiana Dairy Council, Richard Thomas had the honor of presenting the Winning Driver with a bottle of milk and Dave Forgey had the honor of presenting a bottle to the Team Owner and Chief Mechanic. Each person receives a quart of milk provided by the American Dairy Association of Indiana and Indiana Dairy Farmers.

“We were honored to be selected by our peers to continue the tradition that means so much to those of us involved in the dairy industry here in Indiana, as well as throughout the U.S.,” says Thomas. “We appreciate the support of this tradition by the Hulman-George Family, and recognize the important place it holds in the hearts of everyone who loves the Indianapolis 500, especially during this Centennial year.”

The milk bottles awarded are specially engraved for this event. On one side of the bottle it says: American Dairy Association of Indiana – Winners Drink Milk. On the other side it has “Indianapolis 500 Winner,” the year and the official race logo.

This award is among the most coveted trophies for race drivers, but has also garnered recognition as one of the most unique awards to receive. In 2005, Sports Illustrated Web site declared the Indianapolis 500’s bottle of milk to be the “sports world’s coolest prize,” topping the Heisman Trophy, the Kentucky Derby’s Blanket of Roses, the Olympic Gold Medal, the Masters’ Green Jacket and hockey’s Stanley Cup.

The milk toast tradition was started by Louis Meyer, Indy’s first three-time winner (1928, ’33 and ’36). Meyer asked for a glass of his favorite beverage – buttermilk – to quench his thirst after a grueling 500 miles in 1933. As legend has it, Meyer was photographed in Victory Lane drinking milk. The photo then appeared in local newspapers and was spotted by a representative of the Milk Foundation. This person vowed that milk would be given to the winner the following year.

Milk was presented to race winners off and on during the next several years until 1956 when the Bottle of Milk was made a permanent part of the post-race celebration by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Anton “Tony” Hulman.

This past weekend marked the 56th consecutive year that the winner of the Indianapolis 500 toasted his victory with milk.

For more, watch: For the Love of Milk at the Indy 500