The Chalice of Excellence - A Tradition Like No Other

June 26, 2020

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It first appeared at St. Petersburg, Fla. just moments before the green flag flew in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to begin the 2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season. It is adorned with gold and silver paint with ornate etchings like something fashioned by a wizard long ago. Majestic dragons also flank each side of this near mythical goblet, almost as if to ward off anyone that was not worthy of its presence. Team Penske’s No. 2 Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet team and driver Josef Newgarden were ready to finally introduce this beauty to the world. What is it? The one and only Chalice of Excellence.

The team introduced the Chalice for the very first time amongst a crowd of onlookers on the starting grid and in the grandstands at St. Petersburg in March of 2019. The shock and awe of something so unique and beautiful stopped many in their tracks. Those that witnessed the unveiling of the Chalice began to smile, laugh and nod their heads as they embraced this symbol of teamwork unlike anything they have ever seen. And so, the tradition began.

Just hours after introducing the Chalice of Excellence to the world, Newgarden and the No. 2 team brought home their first win of the season – the first of four victories, which eventually led to a much larger trophy in the form of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship. Coincidence? Well, the team thinks not. And for 2020, the No. 2 team has transitioned to the No. 1 team, carrying the coveted reigning champion’s number, and so Chalice of Excellence begins a new journey.

Team Penske ChaliceThe Chalice is passed on from crew member to crew member following an act of excellence from the previous race. For the final race of 2019, Tim Yerger was the final recipient. The process of awarding the Chalice is a grand pre-race ceremony that the team has called the “bestowment.”

“The bestowment is all about recognizing a teammate in front of the group for their hard work to bring the team closer together and strive to make each other better,” said Travis Law, car chief for the No.1  Hitachi Dallara/Chevrolet team.

Just moments prior to each race, as the team prepares for the unknown challenges ahead, they rally together for the ultimate moment of unity by assembling for the bestowment. Prior to the first race of this season earlier this month at Texas Motor Speedway, Law was awarded with the Chalice and he will hold onto it until the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 4.

What makes getting the Chalice so special? Legend (or the team) says that the Chalice contains special powers that are enjoyed by whomever embraces the Chalice for the time it is in their possession. What those powers are, only the No. 1 team knows as they are a closely-guarded secret.

Over time, the Chalice has acquired a few customizations, modifications and battle wounds as it has been bestowed from crew member to crew member, making it more unique and adding to the legend and the mystery. Additionally, the steel case used to house the Chalice continues to also be modified by the team in its travels – with the occasional bump and bruise as it closely guards and protects the Chalice.

As the legend of the Chalice began spread throughout the INDYCAR garage among the competitors and through interviews with the team on NBC Sports Network, and Road & Track magazine, team members decided to create a Chalice Instagram handle to allow fans to celebrate not only the Chalice, but the team itself and its unique comradery. The account, @the_chalice_of_excellence, currently has more than 1,100 followers and growing. A quick look at the Instgram history shows the Chalice filled with championship and Indy 500 rings from crew members, photos of teammates together with Newgarden, hanging out with Yoda (honorary team member), next to pool inflatables, at Team Penske win toasts and so much more. The team is also considering creating a Twitter handle to “make sure the Chalice’s voice can be heard by the masses.”

While the Chalice of Excellence served as a symbol of teamwork and a way to honor the individuals on the team in 2019, it has taken on additional meanings and roles. There is so much that is unique and challenging about the 2020 season, but the members of Team Penske’s No. 1 team know that the Chalice will be there to provide a guiding light and to serve as a teammate and inspiration when needed.  And maybe lend a magical helping hand along the way.

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