CONCORD, N.C. -- Chaplain Donnie Floyd was honored with the prestigious Papa Joe Hendrick Award of Excellence for 2020. He was named the recipient for his hard work and dedication to Hendrick Motorsports over the past year.
Floyd said he was blessed to receive the award and that he’s grateful to be acknowledged by his teammates.
“Anytime you’re recognized by you peers, it’s very humbling,” Floyd said. “Receiving an award like this and being recognized by your peers who believe you’re leading them and who hold to the values and mission of what Hendrick Motorsports stands for is very humbling. I’m thankful.”
The Papa Joe Hendrick Award of Excellence was started in 1995. Named after team owner Rick Hendrick’s father, the award is considered one of the top honors to receive within the organization.
According to Floyd, his purpose as the company chaplain is to see the world as God would and to remind people that their lives have meaning. The most rewarding part of his job is witnessing the people he mentors flourish and not just go through the motions of life.
“When I see people I get to lead taking what they learned from me and going and leading those who work around them, encouraging them, building them up, being there to listen to them, taking them to lunch, helping them through a problem, that encourages me,” Floyd said. “We need each other. We need to be unified and we need to work together to make Hendrick Motorsports what it is.”
Floyd’s journey to working as a chaplain in motor sports was anything but traditional. He and his twin brother always loved racing but Floyd decided to pursue a career as a police officer in Rock Hill, South Carolina. His twin ended up working on the No. 5 car with Hendrick Motorsports. Floyd said his brother called him out of the blue in 1999 to see if he was interested in diving into motor sports.
“I kind of thought it was a joke,” Floyd said. “They were looking to hire someone new in the sport to work on the No. 5 car and they were looking for someone to train up. I went and interviewed with the crew chief – Andy Graves at the time – and he gave me 90 days to think about it.”
Floyd said his chief of police was on board and told him if working with Hendrick Motorsports didn’t work out, he would be hired back as a police officer.
“It was kind of a win-win, no matter what decision I made,” Floyd said. “One day I was a cop, the next day I was on the 5 team with Terry Labonte at Hendrick Motorsports.”
Floyd worked in the paint body shop prepping all the cars to fit the specifically designed templates adding decals and images. Early in his career he started attending Bible studies that were at lunch every day. John Hendrick, Rick Hendrick’s brother, often led these Bible studies.
“John Hendrick used to be a big teacher of that, so I was kind of amazed by that because he was the president of the company,” Floyd said. “I would go to that and continue to learn and grow in my faith.”
John Hendrick, along with nine others, were tragically involved in a plane accident in 2004. Floyd said he felt God’s calling to step in for his fellow Hendrick Motorsports employees and help lead the Bible study. His efforts were noticed and eventually the group was renamed the John Hendrick Fellowship Lunch.
Floyd later was asked to join a faith committee, which reached out to employees to help support their emotional and spiritual well-being. He became the chairman and eventually was asked to help find a full-time chaplain. Floyd said he had been going to school for counseling and reading books on how to guide and help others while he was working full-time with the race teams.
He and others within the organization felt that he would be an ideal selection to become the chaplain, and the committee selected Floyd to the position in 2016.
“God called me to do it,” he said. “You got to pursue your passion, and, for whatever reason, He gave me a passion to serve people and help people do life.”