The Indianapolis 500 is dubbed “The Greatest Spectacle of Racing” for its prestige, longtime history and monumental turnout every year. The IndyCar race is certainly the highlight of racing season, and as such an esteemed event in the IRL, it has accumulated quite a few traditions over the last several decades.
Music by the Gordon Pipers – The Gordon Pipers have been a hit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Indy 500 weekend ever since 1963, when the Scottish/Celtic bagpipers were discovered by IMS owner Tony Hulman and invited to perform during the big race. The Gordon Pipers perform every year at the Indy 500 and are part of the festivities in Victory Lane at the end of the 500-mile race.
“Back Home Again in Indiana” – The unofficial song of the Hoosier State, “Back Home Again in Indiana” is a classic boasting the chorus: “Back home again in Indiana/ And it seems that I can see/ The gleaming candlelight, still burning bright/ Through the sycamores for me./ The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance/ Through the fields I used to roam./ When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash/ How I long for my Indiana home.”
“Back Home Again in Indiana” was first made famous in 1917 when the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded and released it via Columbia Records. Since 1946, it has been an Indy 500 tradition for a vocalist (most notably Jim Nabors since 1972) to sing the tune with backing from the Purdue University Marching Band prior to the race and directly following the singing of the national anthem.
Drinking Milk in Victory Lane – Most IndyCar races end with the winner chugging some kind of refreshing beverage, and in the Indy 500 the tradition is for the victor to take a big drink of cow juice. Taking a gulp from an old-fashioned bottle of milk has been tradition at the Indianapolis 500 since 1936, when winner Louis Meyer drank buttermilk to cool himself off after winning the race. The milk-drinking tradition was an on-and-off tradition in the ’40s and ’50s but has been commonplace in Victory Lane ever since then.
Kissing the Bricks – Though it actually started during the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, kneeling to kiss the bricks at the start/finish line at the IMS is another tradition deeply-rooted in the Indy 500. The winner of the Indianapolis 500 traditionally kneels to the Yard of Bricks at the speedway after the race and kisses the bricks, an event that stems from an occasion during a Brickyard race in 1996.
After the 1996 Brickyard 400, race winner Dale Jarrett and his crew chief Todd Parrott began the tradition of kissing the bricks when, after the race, they both kneeled and kissed the ground in the Yard of Bricks to pay tribute to the great drivers who had won the race in previous decades. The tradition stuck, and annual champions of the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 still kiss the bricks after race wins.