Legendary Motorsports Broadcaster Bob Jenkins Dies At 73

(Press release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Bob Jenkins (Photo: Courtesy Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Veteran radio and television broadcaster Bob Jenkins, a former “Voice of the 500” inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2019, died Aug. 9 at age 73 after a valiant fight with cancer.

The voice of the Liberty, Indiana, native was heard globally over five decades on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, serving several positions, including chief announcer from 1990 through 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.

“The checkered flag is out, Goodyear makes a move, Little Al wins by just a few tenths of a second, perhaps the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500,” Jenkins said on radio, his baritone voice climbing a few octaves.

The victory margin of .043 of a second remains the closest finish in the race’s 105-year history.

Jenkins attended his first “500” in 1960 and said he had only missed two races since – in 1961 when he couldn’t get anyone to take him, and in 1965 when he was on a trip as a high school senior. He came to the track last May while fighting his illness to receive the Robin Miller Award, where he made a brief, poignant acceptance speech and was warmly received by a large group of friends and admirers from the racing community and media.

Indiana University graduate Jenkins turned his love of music into a job in radio, first as a news reporter at stations in Fort Wayne and Valparaiso and then at WIRE in Indianapolis as the co-anchor of a nationally syndicated farm news show “AgDay.”

Jenkins, who had attended Indiana dirt-track races with his father, landed his first position in motorsports in 1979 as the backstretch announcer on the IMS Radio Network. His friend Paul Page, a member of that broadcast team and an employee at rival WIBC, helped him land the job. Later, Page helped Jenkins start the USAC Radio Network.

Jenkins was one of the first on-air employees of ESPN when it launched in 1979. For more than 20 years, he was the lead voice of NASCAR races for ESPN and occasionally ABC, including the first seven Brickyard 400s at IMS. His pairing with former stock car drivers Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons became one of the popular trios in motorsports broadcasting history.

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 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.


  1. IMO, the combination of Bob Jenkins, Gentleman Ned Jarrett, and Benny Parsons, was the best trio to ever call cup races.
    Rip Mr Jenkins.

  2. Fast Eddie says

    Sorry to hear of his passing, condolences to family and friends. I always paid a little extra attention to any race he was part of, always learned “insider” info about drivers, race teams, and tracks.

  3. The Atomic Punk says

    I hate growing older. All the personalities I grew up with. Musicians, Actors ,Athletes etc are moving on. Hate it.

  4. My condolences to the family of Bob Jenkins. Thanks for all the memories and Gods speed.

  5. Remember watching all those episodes of American Sports Cavalcade on TNT in the early 80s . Bob Jenkins and Larry Nuber Broadcasting them .Swamp buggy racing to super late models to super modifieds running with sprint cars on the Dirt at Syracuse NY , Thanks for the memories Bob ( RIP)

  6. “IMO, the combination of Bob Jenkins, Gentleman Ned Jarrett, and Benny Parsons, was the best trio to ever call cup races.”
    Agree completely!

  7. I was watching a race from IRP on FLO a few weeks ago. They had some historical videos from the old Thursday night thunder series which had Bob Jenkins on the call. I watched more of the old races than the live race. Jenkins was great on the call, It brought back some great memories. My condolences to friends and family of Bob Jenkins.

  8. I have a few VCR tapes of old ESPN broadcasts with Bob calling the race, Mod races at the Glen, early on.. certainly a friend of the Mods and all racing. Godspeed Bob..

  9. Fast Eddie says

    Carl, I think your thinking of Steve Evans and Brock Yates on The Nashville Network. But Jenkins and Nuber were the aces when ESPN started showing auto racing. Learned a lot about midgets and sprint cars from their coverage back in the day.

  10. Condolences to his family and friends. Bob was about the best in his field, and was especially notable with the ‘Thursday Night Thunder’ series. I can hear his voice in my mind as I write this. We will miss him greatly.

  11. R.I.P. Bob

  12. RIP Bob , There are very few people , that when you shut your eyes, you can hear their voice clear as a bell in your memory…. His NASCAR & INDY calls will always be remembered by those of US who had the pleasure to hear his tremendous pipes … Thank you Bob for your passionate love of Racing .!!!!

  13. May he rest in the Glory of God’s Peace. RIP to a tremendous asset to ALL Motorsport

  14. Fast Eddie , ( I Bad ) Must have gotten confused with the early days of cable TV . Sucks getting old ! Not to take anything away from Bob Jenkins , But Steve Evens and Brock Yates also did a tremendous job broadcasting motorsport events .

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