Bob Jenkins, who was the radio announcer of the Indianapolis 500 and called motorsports events for more than five decades, died on Monday. He was 73.
Since the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced his death, drivers and fans are paying their respects to the legendary radio and television announcer. One of those was former driver Jeff Gordon. He tweeted Jenkins was “not just a legendary voice, but someone who very much loved what he did. …”
Jenkins announced earlier this year that doctors had diagnosed him with brain cancer. As a result, he planned to scale back his workload, ESPN said. He began showing signs of the disease around Christmas, though doctors didn’t diagnose him until February. He said he wanted to tell his family of race fans first and let them know that he planned to fight the disease.
“With God’s help and my beloved race fans, I’m going to make it,” Jenkins told USA Today at the time. “I don’t have a large family — I have a niece and a nephew — but I consider the first people I should tell is my family, and my family is my race fans.”
Bob Jenkins graduated from Indiana University and started working in radio, Motorsport.com said. He began his career as a news reporter. But it wasn’t until he began calling races in 1979 that he found his calling. He began working at ESPN and anchored their motorsports coverage until 2000, hosting the popular SpeedWeek for 14 years. He was even the commentator for EA Sports NASCAR video game.
“To an entire generation, the sound of Bob’s voice simply meant it was time to go racing,” said Roger Penske, owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “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.”
‘Bob Jenkins Was One of Us’
NASCAR released a statement offering condolences to Bob Jenkins’ family.
“Bob Jenkins lent his iconic voice to so many memorable NASCAR moments, telling the story of our sport to millions of fans for years,” NASCAR said of Jenkins in a statement. “Though known for his immense talent as a broadcaster, Bob’s passion for motorsports truly defined what it meant to be a racer.”
Bob Jenkins called both NASCAR, Indy Car, and Formula 1 races, but he was most famous for his work at the Indianapolis 500. He was the voice of the race for more than a decade. And he was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
“… But through all the successes, Bob never changed from what he truly was at heart — a race fan,” J. Douglas Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway said in a statement. “His humility and ability to always remain a fan — even when he was the top racing commentator in the sport — is why race fans around the world loved watching or listening to a race called by Bob Jenkins. He was one of us!”