Penske Profile - Jeffery Baker

May 21, 2015

In each of our Penske Profiles here at, we take a look at an employee that has meant a great deal to the organization over the years.  Most of the time, these profiles focus on someone who has been with the company for many years. 600-700 words do not do that employee’s time here justice.  Same is the case with this week’s Penske Profile featuring long-time Team Penske employee Jeffrey Baker. 

Baker was born in Winston Salem, NC and grew up in Hendersonville, NC.  A life-long fan of motorsports and NASCAR racing, it was a recall on his regular car that got him involved in his NASCAR career. 

A student at UNC-Asheville, Baker was taking his car to a local Oldsmobile dealer to get some recall work done.  A friend told him of an “upstart” Winston Cup team being run out of a garage right behind the dealership with Derrike Cope as the driver.  With school letting out for the summer, Baker spent some time hanging out at the garage before eventually being brought on to help the team with odds and ends around the shop.  One thing led to another and Baker eventually got hooked and began his NASCAR career.  His first trip to the track was in 1987 at Pocono Raceway, a race the late Time Richmond won.

Working with Cope and eventually Tri-Star Motorsports for several years, Baker got hooked up with Team Penske through crew chief Paul Andrews and driver Jeremy Mayfield.  Needing a change, Baker came on with Penske in 1998 as the tire specialist for the No. 12 Ford team at the Daytona 500.  That year, Mayfield chased the legendary Dale Earnhardt to the checkers when Earnhardt finally won his first 500.

“There are a lot of great memories, but a couple of my favorite races involved Earnhardt,” said Baker.  “My first race with this big team and here we were racing with Dale Earnhardt to try and win the Daytona 500.  And then I remember when we won Pocono with Mayfield and bumped Earnhardt out of the way on the last lap and he came to Victory Lane to congratulate us.”

From there on, Baker’s career at Team Penske became a roller coaster ride.  He worked on the road crew as a tire specialist and a tire changer (another favorite memory being when the team would knock off a good pit stop and beat the legendary Rainbow Warriors team of Jeff Gordon), then became the team manager for Penske Racing.  He lettered cars, scheduled travel, did fab work and became a jack of all trades. He worked closely with Roger Penske, Walt Czarnecki, Don Miller and many team leaders on all aspects of the team. 

“You can’t pinpoint some of things that have stood out.  But being able to work with Roger, Walt and build that relationship with them and to learn from those guys.  They taught me a lot.   Those were huge businessmen and to just learn from them and see the passion that they have for this.  It’s more than a business to them.  This is a passion for them.  And then to take that and to try and explain it to the guys on the floor. 

“They don’t get the interaction with people like Roger and Walt and the leadership team as much.  Some of the guys, they look at them like they are way up there at 30,000 feet and they don’t have as much of an outlook on it as the guys.  But really, I try to explain to my team that they do.  That they know just as much of what is going on and have a great grasp of everything that is going on with the team.  I just like to help bridge that gap.”

Another of Baker’s favorite memories stem from the 2012 championship.

“Looking at all the banners hanging in the banquet room and realizing that, after 28 years in the Cup Series, we had finally made it and were a small part of the most-recent banner hanging.”

Eventually, he got off the road and moved back into a full-time shop job as the director of fabrication and currently runs the entire machine shop for both the NASCAR and INDYCAR programs.  He also serves as a member of the ERT (Employee Recognition Team) and serves on the 50th Anniversary Planning Committee, which is tasked with developing the plan to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Team Penske in 2016.

“My favorite thing about this is getting in the trenches and working with my guys.  We have 400 employees here and it takes everyone to make this successful.  Roger said that it takes everyone.  You can’t do this if you take one person out of it.  He has a way to make people feel wanted, needed and appreciated and that’s special.  Even if they feel like their part of this is insignificant, it truly is an important part of what we do.

“It’s pretty neat knowing that every week, no matter the venue or series, we are serious contenders to win. It wasn’t always that way around here.  But through hard work and great leadership, it is now.”

When away from the shop, Baker spends time with his wife of 23 years Beth and supporting his twins (Ben & Jordan) in cheerleading, basketball and baseball; camping with his family and watching Panther football games.