Veteran radio and television broadcaster Bob Jenkins died August 9 at age 73 after succumbing to his fight with cancer. The voice of the Liberty, IN, native was heard globally over five decades on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. He held several positions over that time, including chief announcer from 1990-1998. Jenkins was one of only four people to serve as television play-by-play announcer in ABC’s 54-year history of broadcasting the Indianapolis 500.
With an easygoing, friendly style that mirrored his personality, the beloved and respected Jenkins anchored NTT INDYCAR SERIES races on television and was a frequent contributor to the public address system at IMS. Jenkins also was a frequent master of ceremonies at “500”-related functions, including the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration.
In one form or another, Jenkins was connected to IMS for more than 40 years, and his most familiar call was the thrilling finish of the 1992 race between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear, where the victory margin of .043 of a second remains the closest finish in the race’s 105-year history.
“Bob Jenkins had an incredible passion for racing and his enthusiasm, combined with his genuine love and knowledge of the sport, endeared him to motorsports fans all over the world,” says Roger Penske, chairman of Penske Entertainment Corp. “The sound of Bob’s voice simply meant it was time to go racing.”
If there was a form of motorsports on U.S. television, Jenkins likely was involved with it at some point in his career. Along with his NASCAR and IMS work, Jenkins anchored for the Indianapolis-based company that produced ESPN’s popular “Thunder” series broadcasts of USAC Sprint Car and Midget series races, and he was the host of “SpeedWeek” on ESPN.
Jenkins’ voice was also used in several motorsports video games and films, including NASCAR-centric “Days of Thunder” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
Jenkins was a colon cancer survivor in the 1980s and retired from television in 2012 to care for his wife, Pam, who had her own cancer battle. She died that October. In February 2021, Jenkins revealed he had been diagnosed with two malignant tumors behind his right temple following a severe headache on Christmas night.
“Through all the successes, Bob never changed from what he truly was at heart – a race fan,” says J. Douglas Boles, president of IMS. “Bob will be missed, but the love of racing he helped grow in so many will be a lasting legacy.”