For some Indiana dairy farmers, making the trek to IMS for the Fastest Rookie of the Year lunch is an annual affair, and some have been doing it for decades. Alexander Rossi, originally from Nevada City, California, was honored as the fastest Tuesday by American Dairy Association Indiana, but the trip to Indy is the first ever for the 25-year old former Formula 1 driver, now a series regular for IndyCar.
“But my focus growing up and through my early career was always on Europe and Formula 1. I spent 7 years and most of my adult life there. I had never really been to the Speedway in any capacity so it’s been as very big, eye-opening experience and every day I’m learning about a new tradition, a part of history, and it’s very cool to be a part of.”
He told HAT that meeting the milk people again in IMS victory circle Sunday is “an ultimate goal for anyone that steps into a race care ever. With this year being the 100th it’s quite a good year to do it and I’ll be giving it my best shot.”
Rossi starts 11th, in the middle of the 4th row, and the car, team and driver talent give him a real shot at drinking milk in victory circle.
“Andretti Autosport is a team that does a lot during the week. Being a 5-car team we have the opportunity to do that, and I think we were definitely strong and competitive and had no issues behind cars or overtaking cars. So I’m planning on going forward on Sunday, no doubt.”
Other Indy rookies this year include Spencer Pigot from Orlando who has visualized winning the 500.
“Absolutely!” he said. “I think that every driver dreams about that so it’s definitely the goal and I hope it comes true.”
Max Chilton is another F1 driver who has settled into an IndyCar this year. He told HAT he’ll change his milk habit if he wins Sunday.
“There’s many iconic photos of the drivers either drinking the milk or pouring it over their heads. I actually got asked the other day what type of milk that I will be drinking. I tend to always drink semi-skimmed which I think is 2% over here, but I selected the full fat because after racing 3 or 4 hours you want to get as much fat and sugars back into you.”
And if Matt Brabham wins he plans to share the milk prize.
“Everyone probably deserves a little taste of it. You know I don’t want to be selfish and dump it all over myself like some guys. There’s a lot of people who have got me to this situation I am, and if I won it’s great to share with those people. My crew’s done a great job and even everyone from the media team that’s been promoting me and making the sponsors happy, and obviously my dad and my family and everyone on the Brabham side.”
In this case “dad” is the former CART and IMSA driver Geoff Brabham who also attended the lunch. Matt’s grandfather was the late three-time Formula 1 World Champion, Sir Jack Brabham.
One interesting story line for the 100th running of the 500 involves a rookie and car #25. Last year it was driven by Justin Wilson who was killed during a race later in the season. His brother Stefan will be in the 25 car this year.
“It’s an honor to be representing him and it’s driving me to do the best job I can. I’m pretty determined to go out there and give it everything I’ve got and just race hard for him.”
Tuesday marked the 42nd Fastest Rookie event, and Saturday at the public driver’s meeting Indiana dairy will present the Louis Meyer Winners Drink Milk trophy to last year’s winner Juan Pablo Montoya.