Legendary NASCAR and IndyCar commentator Bob Jenkins has passed away at the age of 73. Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the news on Monday, Aug. 9, bringing an end to Jenkins’ eight-month bout with brain cancer.
Jenkins’ voice was one of the most prestigious and distinguishable among race fans in the booth. For parts of five different decades, he remained part of Indianapolis 500 coverage. Jenkins only failed to attend the race in person twice – in 1961 and 1965 – before his cancer diagnosis.
“Bob Jenkins, over the years, he was just a figure that was always there and very much front and center in Indianapolis,” 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti told The Indy Star. “His voice is just absolutely unique. I would always know who was talking. He was just one of those that developed his career alongside ours, you know. He was one of us in every way.”
The Liberty, Ind. native had a passion for all forms of racing while his humble, articulate personality won many people over during his career. Jenkins called races for ESPN and NBC Sports, covering both the NTT IndyCar Series and the NASCAR Cup Series as the lead announcer for both networks.
Jenkins first started commentating for the Indianapolis 500 in 1979 for IMS Radio from the backstretch. In 1990, he became one of the prominent “Voice of the 500” commentators, a role he served in until 1998. His career as a broadcaster for IMS included several different positions, from radio to the public address booth.
Arguably, his most famous call came in the 1992 Indy 500, where Al Unser Jr. edged out Scott Goodyear in the closest finish in the race’s 105-year history.
The iconic voice was also well-known in the NASCAR community, where he commentated the first seven Brickyard 400 races and was a lead broadcaster for ESPN races for nearly 20 years, beginning in 1981. Additionally, Jenkins called races for the USAC Series and other racing ventures. He retired from television in 2012.
“You know what I tell people often when they ask me how this whole thing of my career came together? I tell them, you know, I don’t know, because I have only been a race fan who got lucky, and I think that’s what I will have on my tombstone because it’s true,” Jenkins told IMS president Doug Boles in February.
Jenkins battled colon cancer in the 1980s and was diagnosed with brain cancer in February of 2021. Jenkins’ wife, Ann, also passed away from brain cancer back in 2012.
In 2019, the legendary racing broadcaster was inducted into the IMS Hall of Fame.
About the author
Luken Glover arrived on the Frontstretch scene in 2020. He has been an avid NASCAR fan for the majority of his life, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who used to help former team owner Junie Donlavey in his garage. Glover covers news for the site and took over "The Underdog House" column in 2021. In addition to being a college junior, his hobbies include volunteering at church, playing basketball and tennis, racing go-karts, and helping at his high school alma mater.
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Godspeed! I grew up listening to Bob calling races and he made them exciting without being over dramatic. He was a true talent and will be missed.
Hosting, play-by-play, PA announcing, whatever it was, Jenkins always sounded like an expert, a pro, and a race fan.
Cancer is a ugly beast.
you are absolutely right. i’m so tired of learning that another person is fighting that fight.
Bob was great. Agree with Mack that he was great at conveying the excitement without being too dramatic. Worked well with so many people. Great with Larry Nuber, Benny Parsons, Ned Jarrett, and the list goes on. Bob played a big role in developing my love of NASCAR in the 80s. The whole ESPN crew did. Jerry Punch and Dick Berggren are definitely in that. Thank God for Bob Jenkins and for all the old ESPN races on YouTube.
Very sorry to hear this.
A sad day, Bob is my favorite cup announcer ever. He, Benny and Ned were wonderful together. RIP Bob and thanks for the enjoyment and memories.