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The Indianapolis 500 has many long-standing traditions, though many were forced to take a break during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the interruptions, there's plenty that Indy 500 fans and drivers love about the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Here are some of the most-beloved Indy 500 traditions, some of what sets this apart from most sporting events.
'Greatest Spectacle in Racing'
Alice Greene, a copywriter for WIBC radio, is credited with coining the phrase "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" in 1954. On the air, legendary Indy 500 voice Sid Collins made it famous.
Why the Indy 500 winner drinks milk
Louis Meyer, parched after becoming the first three-time Indy 500 winner in 1936, asked for buttermilk in Victory Lane. He had just driven for 4 1/2 hours in the heat. And his mother had told him years earlier that milk was good to drink on hot days, so that's what he requested.
A dairy industry executive saw a photo of Meyer drinking the milk and decided to offer it to winners thereafter. The Indiana Dairy Association became an official sponsor in the 1950s, and these days every driver is asked what kind of milk they prefer — whole or skim — just in case they get the opportunity to celebrate with it.
Why do they drink milk at the Indy 500?: Here's the story behind the tradition
(A note: Buttermilk and chocolate milk are not options. And most of the milk is going to be poured on the winner's head anyway, so the flavor isn't that big of a deal.)
(Another note: Emerson Fittipaldi made what was considered a faux pas in 1993 when he sipped milk, then pulled out some orange juice to drink. He was promoting his orchard business in Brazil, but fans weren't pleased.)
Indy 500 winner is presented with a wreath
Jim Rathmann received a wreath after winning the 1960 Indy 500, and the winner has donned one every year since. The wreath is made of 33 ivory colored Cymbidium orchids with burgundy tips and 33 miniature flags.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway features a yard of bricks on the racing surface
Paving bricks — 3.2 million of them — once covered the entire 2.5-mile oval, but over time different sections of the racing surface have been paved. Since 1961, a 3-foot wide section at the start/finish line still has bricks. Hence, the terms "Yard of Bricks" and "Brickyard."
Indy 500 winners kiss the bricks
The Indy 500 borrowed this tradition from NASCAR's Brickyard 400. Dale Jarrett kissed the bricks after his 1996 victory, and Gil de Ferran picked it up for the 2003 Indy 500. Now, everyone who wins at the facility — car racers, air racers, golfers — make sure they kiss the bricks.
Sometimes, Indy 500 winners climb the fence
Helio Castroneves couldn't contain himself after winning the 2001 Indy 500 as a rookie. As he had done at some other races, he rushed to the outside fence and climbed it to celebrate with fans. Many race winners have followed suit.
Borg-Warner trophy features the faces of every Indy 500 winner
The trophy, which debuted after the 1936 race, includes every the image of every race winner. The trophy cost $10,000 to produce but is insured for well over $1 million.
The trophy had room for 70 images, and since the race is more than a century old, a larger base allows for winners through 2033. It stands about 5-foot-4 and 153 pounds.
Starting in 1988, the Speedway started handing out "Baby Borgs," 18-inch versions of the trophy, to winning drivers. Team owners also received Baby Borgs starting in 1997.
See the Borg-Warner Trophy: Watch the unveiling with two time Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato
Singing '(Back Home Again) in Indiana'
The song has been part of the pre-race festivities since the 1940s, and many stars of their era have had the honor. Jim Nabors' version is the most revered. He sang it most years from 1972-2014. Jim Cornelison now handles the song.
Pre-race balloon release
For years, thousands of red, while and blue balloons were released in the moments leading up to the race. According to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Hulman’s mother, Grace Smith Hulman, first suggested the balloon release. Since 1950, the release coincided with the final notes of "(Back Home Again In) Indiana."
However, for the third year in a row the long-standing tradition will not be happening at IMS in 2022.
2022 IMS balloon release: IMS pauses balloon release at Indy 500, partially due to environmental concerns
'Gentlemen, start your engines'
The command to start the engines is believed to have started in 1946, the first race after a long race hiatus for World War II. In 1977, the command became "In company with the first lady ever to qualify at Indianapolis, gentlemen, start your engines," to accommodate Janet Guthrie's history-making debut. Now, the command is, "Drivers, start your engines," or "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines."
Indy 500 Festival parade
This is the second straight year there won't be a live event. It usually attracts more than 100,000 to downtown Indianapolis as the drivers, bands, celebrities and a grand marshal greet those lining the streets.
Indy 500 pace car
Since 2002, a Chevrolet has paced the field to the green flag. In 2022, it will be a Corvette Z06.
What is a pace car?: What to know about the Indy 500 pace car and driver
Indy 500 earnings
Indy 500 winners generally earn about $2.5 million, and even those trailing the field get about $200,000. Helio Castroneves is the only winner to eclipse $3 million in a single year (2009). The earnings are revealed the day after the race at the Victory Celebration.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Kissing bricks and drinking milk: sights, sounds of Indy 500 tradition