CONCORD, N.C. – Every year, Hendrick Motorsports recognizes team members who have been with the organization for 20 years. Unfortunately, that is a tough milestone to reach in the demanding world of pit crew athletes.

So, this season, director of human performance Andy Papathanassiou had an idea.

“Twenty years is a little rough over the wall in pit crew years, so we wanted to give something that was a little more on par with a career-type service award but in pit crew years,” he explained. “Ten is a good stretch.”

As the pit crew department gathered together to close out the 2019 campaign, Papathanassiou presented four athletes with the very first batch of unique 10-year ironman awards.

“It’s with a lot of pride and a lot of satisfaction that we can start this tradition,” he told the group.

R.J. Barnette, Nick Covey, Brandon Harder and Calvin Teague made up the first class of award recipients.

“It’s an honor, first of all, to be at Hendrick Motorsports,” Barnette said. “And to be here 10 years is something I never thought about. I didn’t even dream this. So, to be here today to be receiving an award for my service for 10 years, it’s pretty cool.”

The one-of-a-kind trophy includes each tool required to execute a pit stop and “10 YEARS” situated on top along with each athlete’s name across the front.

“Over the span of a 10-year athletic career, I don’t care which sport you’re talking about, that is going to the bulk of your entire career,” Papathanassiou said. “And when you spend that at one place and at a place with such high standards like Hendrick Motorsports, you’re a leader, you’re a contributor, you’re a hard worker and all of those are embodied within the award.”

With all that in mind, each recipient of the award was honored and grateful to accept it as they addressed the gathered crowd.

But each made it clear there is plenty more to come even as they surpass the decade mark with the organization.

“Pit crew members, they kind of age out at a certain time,” Teague offered. “To have the accomplishment of doing it for 10 years and still being competitive and wanting to do it for many more years – I feel like I can be competitive for a long time – it’s an accomplishment.

“And the trophy’s really cool. It’s going to be awesome in the man cave.”