The racing world has lost a prominent figure. Bob Jenkins anchored NASCAR on ESPN from 1979-2000 and called countless NASCAR, IndyCar, F1 and other races for them through 2003, then spent time as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway PA announcer, worked for NBC and Versus/NBCSN, then returned to the IMS PA role full-time from 2013-20. Jenkins passed away Monday following an eight-month battle with brain cancer, which saw him reducing his workload this year. Here’s more on him from Dana Hunsinger Benbow at The Indianapolis Star:
Bob Jenkins was the iconic auto racing broadcaster who called the Indianapolis 500’s closest finish and who, off the track, was a music aficionado. He was a humble rarity in a media world of egos who always said of his career, “I was just a race fan who got lucky.”
“All I want to be remembered as is a race fan who got a job in radio or TV. And for some reason, people liked me.”
Mario Andretti, the 1969 Indy 500 winner, was one of those people. Jenkins was such a fixture at the track, he can’t exactly remember when he first met Jenkins.
“Bob Jenkins, over the years, he was just a figure that was always there and very much front and center in Indianapolis,” said Andretti. “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,” Andretti said. “He was one of us in every way.”
Jenkins made a huge impact in the NASCAR world as well. Here’s more on that from Zack Albert at NASCAR.com:
It was with ESPN and later ABC Sports that Jenkins became a familiar voice in stock-car racing as NASCAR’s reach expanded to a national level through the 1980s and ’90s. Jenkins’ motorsports tenure with the network began in 1981, first paired with colleague Larry Nuber and later leading a formidable three-man booth with NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons.
“He certainly was very good at leading Benny and I where we needed to go and always making us look good,” Jarrett said in 2012, “and that’s something I’ve always appreciated.”
Jenkins was the lead on-air voice for many memorable races, from Al Unser Jr.’s victory in the closest Indy 500 finish in 1992, Alan Kulwicki’s stirring march to the NASCAR Cup Series championship at Atlanta that same year, to Jeff Gordon’s win in the inaugural Brickyard 400 at IMS in 1994.
Here are some of Jenkins’ best calls over the years:
And here’s an appearance he made on NBCSN “Carb Day” (the final practice before the Indy 500) coverage in 2018 to talk about that year being ABC’s last Indy 500 for the time being:
Jenkins will certainly be missed in the racing world. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.
[The Indianapolis Star, NASCAR.com; screengrab via wfrncsu012 on YouTube]