Bob Jenkins, a longtime motorsports broadcaster known for his legendary work on the Indy 500 and NASCAR, is dead after a battle with brain cancer. He died Monday at 73.
The Liberty, Indiana, native was among four people to serve as the TV play-by-play announcer during ABC’s 54-year run of broadcasting the Indianapolis 500.
After also calling IndyCar races on NBCSN and ESPN, he since had settled into the role since 2011 of IMS’ main PA announcer, inheriting a role that Tom Carnegie made famous for 60 years as the voice of the speedway from 1946-2006. He also had been the chief announcer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network from 1990-98.
Bob Jenkins considered himself an Indianapolis 500 fan who got lucky.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans consider themselves lucky to have Bob's voice ringing through the grandstands for decades.
While his voice on race day will be missed, his legacy at IMS will last forever. pic.twitter.com/loA5JtHFbd
— Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) August 9, 2021
Among the most famous calls in his memorable baritone was the finish of the 1992 Indy 500, which Al Unser Jr. won by 0.043 seconds over Scott Goodyear in the closest finish of the 105-year-old race. His voice also was featured in several auto racing videogames and movies.
“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,” Penske Entertainment Corp. Chairman Roger Penske said in a statement. “His announcing career spanned nearly 50 years, and to an entire generation, the sound of Bob’s voice simply meant it was time to go racing. That legendary voice became the soundtrack for the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We will miss Bob’s kindness, his professionalism and his unique ability to bring us all closer to the track with his stories and insights. Our thoughts are with Bob’s family and his many friends throughout the racing community and beyond.”
Jenkins received the Robin Miller Award while at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. IMS president Doug Boles posted a tribute Monday.
Sad day for @IMS, #Indy500 and fans of all racing. We lost a great one this afternoon. Rest In Peace Bob Jenkins! pic.twitter.com/n7Aq98V0jF
— J. Douglas Boles (@jdouglas4) August 9, 2021
He had survived colon cancer in 1980s and retired from TV announcing to care for his wife, Pam, who died of cancer in October 2012. Last February, Jenkins said he was stepping away from his IMS role as track announcer after he was diagnosed with two malignant tumors behind his right temple after a severe headache last Christmas night.
“I’m not going to completely retire; I’m going to say I’m cautiously optimistic about working some of the public address this year, but you will not see me or hear me as much as you have during the past few years,” Jenkins said in a February interview with IMS president Doug Boles in the speedway’s “Behind the Bricks” video series. “I’m going to do all I can because I am going through radiation and chemotherapy to knock this cancer out of my brain.
Our sport has lost a wonderful man and an iconic voice, but Bob Jenkins is unforgettable. Myself and so many others have lost a dear and loyal friend. My sincere condolences to his family. He will be missed. https://t.co/Y0V6Ivu0ST
— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) August 9, 2021
“The thing that I can’t do, although I do every night, I can’t pray as much as all my race fans can do, and I sincerely believe that is a major, major contribution to how this thing is going to turn out. So thank you race fans and everybody watching here at the speedway for your concern and prayers. I want every one of them. I’ll just never get over how much of a help that is going to be.”
As NBC Sports Group Vice President of Editorial Content Ron Vaccaro wrote in February, Jenkins was a voice to a generation of fans who learned about racing while listening to his dulcet tones.