INDIANAPOLIS — It’s the moment every Indy race driver wants — to pour fresh, ice-cold milk over their head in Victory Circle following a win at the Indianapolis 500. This past weekend, Kerry Estes, an area dairy farmer who lives just outside of New Palestine, was the 2023 “Veteran Milk Man” of the Indianapolis 500, representing the American Dairy Association.
For Estes, it was a magical moment standing in Victory Circle, handing the milk to this year’s winner, Josef Newgarden, who had actually visited Estes’ farm in Fountaintown.
“It was so awesome, and what made it even more cool is Josef had come out to the farm and visited with us about a year ago and stayed for several hours and we had a great time making a video,” Estes said. “In my role as the Milk Man, I’m not supposed to cheer or pick a driver but, deep down inside, seeing Josef win just made it so very special.”
Estes said officials from the television network broadcasting the race and celebration yelled “milk, milk, milk,” when Newgarden made his way to Victory Circle after the race, indicating it was time for Estes to bring out the bottle of milk, and when he did Newgarden acknowledged him.
“I came walking out and Josef turns and looks at me and he’s like, ‘I’ve been to your farm!’ and he grabbed me and pulled me in and we had an awesome moment there where we hugged and I was so pumped,” Estes said. “I was so fired up with milk flying everywhere.”
Estes, whose voice was still hoarse from cheering during the race, noted his two-year run of being the “Milk Man” for the Indianapolis 500 is officially over. However, he’ll still represent the American Dairy Association, including hosting virtual farm tours for students. Estes, his wife and four children run a successful dairy farm in Fountaintown with over 150 dairy cows and some 100 calves.
“I want kids to meet a farmer, see our cattle and understand what the land means to us,” Estes said. “We want kids to see we care for our cows and how milk is produced, so I’ll continue to do that.”
Estes’ position with the Indy 500 this year was a step up from last year in 2022 when he served as the “Rookie Milk Man,” delivering a bottle of milk to the winning team owner and chief mechanic. As the “Veteran Milk Man” Estes then delivered the milk to the winning driver this year.
While Estes had never attended an Indy 500 race until 2021, things changed in 2022 when Estes was named an official spokesperson for the American Dairy Association of Indiana. Handing the milk to the winning Indianapolis 500 driver was part of the two-year deal with race officials through the American Dairy Association of Indiana.
The opportunity to be the “milk man” for the Indianapolis 500 started a few years ago when Estes was asked by officials with the American Dairy Association of Indiana to take part in a Fuel Up To Play 60 ad with the Indianapolis Colts. The NFL had teamed up with the American Dairy Association of Indiana to help build healthier and stronger school communities. Estes, who also does some football coaching at New Palestine High School, thought it was a great idea and fun opportunity to be part of the Fuel Up To Play 60, so he agreed to take part.
As Estes’ time as the “Milk Man” for the Indy 500 has ended he said it’s been an awesome ride.
“There is a part of me that is sad, but I actually feel so fulfilled that this all happened,” Estes said. “We are so thankful and this was so much fun having this incredible opportunity.”
Estes noted some people have even stated Victory Circle 2023 was one of the best celebrations in recent memory and Estes thinks it was too.
“It was so surreal,” Estes said. “This was really 20 years of hard work for me after many years of seeing so many farmers have to sell their land and dairy farms, and for Josef, he wanted it so bad and it just came together for both of us and there was milk going everywhere and we had a ball.”
Celebrating an Indy 500 win with milk dates back to 1933 when Louis Meyer drank a glass of buttermilk after winning his second Indy 500. Meyer’s mother had always told him the best thing to drink on a hot day was buttermilk.
The American Dairy Association of Indiana is in charge of delivering the bottle of milk to the winner. Before every Indy 500, it polls the drivers to see what their preferred celebratory milk choice will be.