A Thousand Miles of Team Penske Service

June 12, 2020

"Penske Material" provides an inside look at some of the personalities, stories and moments that make Team Penske so unique. 

As Roger Penske has often said about Team Penske and Penske Corporation overall, “human capital is our company’s greatest resource,” and nobody exemplifies that statement more than Jeffrey Thousand. A four-decade employee of the Team Penske organization, Thousand has served in many different roles and experienced a great deal of success over the years.

Team Penske Material LogoA St. Louis, Missouri native, Thousand cut his racing teeth on the short tracks of the Midwest. One of his first and impactful experiences included meeting an up-and-coming short track ace named Rusty Wallace.

The duo began their career together in the early 1980s in the now defunct American Speed Association (ASA) circuit, where Wallace won the championship in 1983.

“Jeffrey and I met when I was short track racing in St. Louis and we were making no money and he worked on my car for free, but we had a great time and won a lot of races,” said Wallace. “He’s a master mechanic and fabricator and any piece he touches is beautiful.”

Team Penske Jeffrey ThousandThousand joined Team Penske in August 1980 when he was hired by former Penske Racing South President and fellow St. Louis native Don Miller. At the time, Thousand came aboard to work for Penske Products, based in Reading, Pennsylvania, and he was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the team’s various show car programs.

Thousand remained at Penske Products through 1993. With the desire to return to competitive racing, Thousand relocated to Charlotte in July of ‘93 to join Team Penske’s NASCAR operation. He began working in the fabrication shop before assisting in the final setup of the cars, alongside former NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief Todd Parrott.

One of Thousand’s fondest memories came in September of 1993 when Wallace scored a win in the inaugural Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was one of Thousand’s first races as member of the team’s road crew and at the last minute was called in to serve as a spotter.

Thousand remained a road crew member over the next couple of seasons before crew chief Buddy Parrott tapped him on the shoulder in September of 1995 to become car chief on the No. 2 Miller Genuine Draft Ford. Thousand continued in that position until Wallace’s final Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2005. During that decade of Cup Series competition at Team Penske with Wallace, Thousand worked under four crew chiefs including Parrott, Robin Pemberton, Bill Wilburn and Larry Carter.

Team Penske Jeffrey ThousandThe following season Thousand transitioned to overseeing the setup of the No. 2 and No. 12 Team Penske Cup Series cars, but in 2008 he returned to the road full-time, rejoining No. 2 team with driver Kurt Busch. Thousand continued to work with Team Penske on the road through 2012, working with Ryan Blaney’s current crew chief, Todd Gordon.

Since 2013, Thousand has been involved with several special assignments including research and development as well as the team’s seven-post system. Thousand still enjoys coming to the track and he serves as a mechanic several times a year on the No. 12 Xfinity Series car.

“The love of racing and the satisfaction of going to the racetrack with the equipment Team Penske has and knowing we have a chance to win and bring home a trophy is what keeps me coming back,” said Thousand.

When asked what’s been the key to his longevity and loyalty to Team Penske for more than 40 years, Thousand doesn’t hesitate in his response and, not surprisingly, it mirrors what Roger Penske has said about his organization – “it’s the people.”