How did Bob Jenkins die? IMS announcer, 73, was hoping to get back to broadcasting at Indy 500

The iconic auto racing broadcaster died after an 8-month battle with brain cancer


                            How did Bob Jenkins die? IMS announcer, 73, was hoping to get back to broadcasting at Indy 500
Motorsport announcer and commentator Bob Jenkins dies of cancer at 73 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

If you loved motorsport, the name Bob Jenkins is perhaps one you remember fondly. The iconic broadcaster was the voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network for over five decades, and one of the only four people to serve as television play-by-play announcer in the 54 years of broadcasting the race. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) on August 9 confirmed Jenkins died at 73, bringing down the curtains on one of the most successful broadcasting careers in the US.

The news comes as a serious blow to Indy 500 fans, who have been mourning the death of iconic racer Bobby Unser. However, he isn't the only iconic racer to die this year. In March, we lost Sabine Schmitz, who is well known for her appearances on 'Top Gear' and being the only female winner of the 24 Hours of Nürburgring. In 2020, NASCAR legend Mike Stefanik died after a plane crash along the Rhode Island-Connecticut border.

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Following news of Jenkins' death, social media has been filled with tributes to the icon, with many users posting personal stories and fond memories. Almost all motorsports fans will have heard or seen Jenkins at some point, as IMS put it, "If there was a form of motorsports on U.S. television, Jenkins likely was involved with it at some point in his career." Despite having retired in 2012, he is still fondly remembered by many die-hard fans, as Twitter shows.

Bob Jenkins waves the green flag at a practice session of the Indy 500. (Rick DeBruhl/Twitter)

 

How did Bob Jenkins die?

According to the IMS obituary, Jenkins died on August 9 after losing a long battle to cancer. In February 2021, Jenkins revealed he had been diagnosed with two malignant tumors behind his right temple. The tumors were discovered after severe headaches in December 2020. "With God’s help and my beloved race fans, I’m going to make it," Jenkins said, fighting back tears in a YouTube video. "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." 

The diagnosis was Jenkins' second brush with cancer. In the 1980s, he successfully beat colon cancer. Unfortunately, Cancer seemed to run in the family. In 2012, Jenkins retired to care for his wife Pam, who was also diagnosed with cancer. In October 2012, she lost her battle with brain cancer. Post that, Jenkins did return to the racetrack occasionally, such as in 2013 for the United States Auto Club's Silver Crown Series. 

In 2019, he was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum's Hall of Fame, the last time he would set foot at the Indy 500. Jenkins was hopeful of returning to work on the PA system, but that was never meant to be. As IndyStar reported,  Jenkins was able to get to the track only twice and he didn't work in 2020. Jenkins leaves behind a rich legacy spanning the entire breadth of motorsport.

Apart from anchoring, analyzing, and announcing NASCAR, CART series races, and even Formula 1, Jenkins is the well-known voice of EA Sports' NASCAR game series between 1998 and 2001. He also lent his voice to the games IndyCar Series, IndyCar Series 2005, and Indianapolis 500 Evolution. In some way or the other, almost all motorsports fans of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s would have been touched by Jenkin's well-known voice.

Bob Jenkins during an NBC Sports analysis session. (Twitter)

'Bob Jenkins was the soundtrack' to motorsport memories

"A brilliant broadcaster, loyal friend, selflessly humble co-worker & irreplaceable part of motorsports. I’ll repeat: Most people’s lives are enriched by the Indy 500. The Indy 500 was enriched by Bob Jenkins. So, too, have been I. Godspeed to a dear, dear man," Indy 500 announcer Jake Query tweeted. NASCAR driver Parker Kligerman said, "RIP Bob Jenkins. Such a legend that will always be synonymous with the Indy 500. This vid below remains one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had in sim racing."



 



 

 

One person said, "We all have tons of great motorsports memories and Bob Jenkins' voice was the soundtrack to so damn many of them." Another tweeted, "Thank you Bob Jenkins for helping paint pictures with your voice for much of my childhood from Midgets at IRP, Salem & Winchester to Stock Cars at Bristol & North Wilkesboro. Godspeed."



 



 

 

"Hard to process the passing of Bob Jenkins. He's one of four guys that inspired me to pursue a career in broadcasting. While my career path has been different, Bob was like all of us. Passionate about racing and made it relatable. Something that'll be unmatched. God speed," one user tweeted. Another said, "Very sad news... Bob Jenkins was the racing anchor for a generation of today's up and comers to study and learn from.. Great with the details, keeping all informed of the flow of the race, and drawing out the personalities of his analysts."



 



 

 

Since he first attended the Indy 500 in 1960, Jenkins only missed two races to date. With decades of memories and famous calls, he remains one of the most beloved announcers in motorsport. It's unclear if the IMS has planned anything special to pay tribute to Jenkins, but it is likely there will be some tribute at the Indy 500 next May. 

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