Legendary broadcaster Bob Jenkins, who lent his voice to a multitude of NASCAR and IndyCar races during his career, passed away on Monday, Aug. 9, after an eight-month battle with brain cancer. He was 73 years old.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway confirmed the news on Monday, issuing a statement and reflecting on Jenkins’ time in the booth. The Indiana native had revealed in February that he had been diagnosed with two malignant tumors behind his right temple after a severe headache on Dec. 25, 2020. According to NASCAR’s obituary, initial tests showed a stroke but further examination revealed the tumors. He previously survived colon cancer in 1983.
The lead on-air voice for a multitude of events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jenkins provided the call for some of the most memorable events in track history. The list includes Jeff Gordon’s win in the inaugural Brickyard 400 race at IMS in 1994, as well as Al Unser Jr.’s victory in the 1992 Indy 500.
From 1990-1998, Jenkins served as the lead voice for the Indy 500 while also calling NASCAR races. Jenkins ultimately retired from television in 2012 to care for his wife Pam, who faced her own cancer battle. She passed away in October of that year.
“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of legendary motorsports broadcaster Bob Jenkins,” Track officials said in a statement on Twitter. “He will be truly missed by race fans around the world. Bob was one of the kindest, most genuine people anyone could meet, and his legacy will live forever.”
Jenkins Called More Than 200 NASCAR Races During His Career
An employee of ESPN starting in 1979, Jenkins spent more than 20 years as the lead commentator for the network’s NASCAR coverage, along with limited races on ABC. He formed a trio with Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons, kickstarting a beloved era in motorsports.
The “magic,” as Jenkins described, came to an end in 2000 as other networks took over coverage of the Winston Cup Series and the Busch Series. He provided a final goodbye from the booth and spoke about how the coverage began in 1981 at Rockingham and led to the group becoming “like family” over the years.
“We thank everyone at NASCAR and the various tracks we’ve visited, but most importantly, we thank you, our fans, who have contributed so much to our coverage down through the years,” Jenkins said in his goodbye message. “It was for you that we’ve done this since 1981. Without you, there would have been no magic.”
Jenkins Provided Calls for Several NASCAR-Centric Projects
Calling races was not the only way in which Jenkins made an impact on motorsports. He also lent his voice to video games and films focused on stock car racing. The list includes “Days of Thunder,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” and “NASCAR 98” for the Sony Playstation.
His role in NASCAR video games is how many younger fans learned more about the sport and the various tracks on the circuit. Instead of using a virtual recreation, the developers of “NASCAR 98” used full-motion video sequences to provide further information. Jenkins would appear on the screen and provide updates from the booth or trackside.
Jenkins continued to appear in several video games during his life. He provided his likeness and voice to “NASCAR 99,” “NASCAR 2000,” and “NASCAR 2001” while commentating races for the fans at home. The list also included “Indianapolis 500 Evolution,” “Andretti Racing,” and “IndyCar Series 2005.”