Jenkins at the 1985 Indianapolis 500
|Known for||Calling NASCAR and IndyCar races on ABC and ESPN|
Bob Jenkins (born September 4, 1947) is a former television and radio sports announcer, primarily calling IndyCar and NASCAR telecasts for ESPN/ABC and later NBC Sports. His most recent position was the lead commentator for NBC Sports on coverage of the IndyCar Series. He retired from broadcasting after the 2012 IndyCar season finale to care for his wife Pam who was battling brain cancer. After his wife's death that offseason, it was announced by Indycar and NBC officials that he would come out of retirement for Indianapolis 500 final practice coverage in 2013, and would be available in a reserve role.
Bob Jenkins was born in Richmond, Indiana, and grew up in the nearby town of Liberty. He graduated from Short High School in 1965 and Indiana University in 1969. He was co-anchor for nationally syndicated farm news show, "AgDay".
He was one of the original cornerstone anchors on ESPN when it debuted in 1979, working there as one of the most senior members of the network until 2003. Despite his status, he rarely, if ever, visited the Bristol, Connecticut studios. Nearly all of his work with the network was at the track, or at satellite studios in Indianapolis or Charlotte.
His primary duty was anchoring NASCAR on ESPN from 1979 to 2000. His first booth partner was Larry Nuber. Later, he was teamed with Ned Jarrett and Benny Parsons. The trio was one of the most popular announcing crews in NASCAR. By the early 1990s, the crew (sans Jarrett, who was contracted with CBS) would also cover races on ABC Sports. During the 1980s, Jenkins also occasionally called CART races on ESPN, prior to the arrival of veteran Paul Page.
Concurrent to his work on ESPN & ABC, from 1979 to 1998, Jenkins worked on the IMS Radio Network. He reported various positions, including the backstretch, turn four, and served as chief announcer of the Indy 500 from 1990 to 1998.
By 1999, Jenkins quit the radio crew to focus on television full-time. The ongoing IRL/CART split forced changes in the announcing crews at ESPN/ABC. In addition, ESPN/ABC would be losing NASCAR rights at the end of the season. Paul Page was assigned to the CART series broadcasts, and Jenkins was moved exclusively to the chief announcing position of the IRL and Indianapolis 500 broadcasts. The arrangement would continue through 2001.
For 2002, with CART floundering, Page was moved back to the IRL, and Jenkins was shifted to the lesser host position. The arrangement created a "crowded" booth with two veteran announcers. In 2003, on Bump Day at the Indy 500 on ESPN, Jenkins made an impassioned commentary, defending the event from media detractors. Many were ridiculing the race and the IRL for struggling to fill the field to the traditional 33 cars.
At the end of the 2003 season, Jenkins was released from ABC/ESPN.
After being released from ABC/ESPN in 2003, Jenkins joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff in various roles including public address announcer and designated emcee of various events and press gatherings (such as the Victory Banquet, Last Row Party, and press conferences). The 2003 Brickyard 400 was his first foray as part of the P.A. team. In 2004, he had a short stint as an announcer for Champ Car on Spike TV but was soon fired by the production company. He joined SPEED and was an anchor for Speed News for a little over one year. Jenkins has also been a contributor to WIBC radio in Indianapolis.
In June 2006, Jenkins was released from his contract with SPEED. According to Jayski's Silly Season Site, in early 2006 Jenkins became the communications director for the Premier Racing Association.
In July 2006, he was the chief announcer of the IMS Radio Network for the U.S. Grand Prix. In 2007, he was the announcer of Indy Pro Series broadcasts on ESPN2. He anchored the Allstate 400 on the radio, his first NASCAR race call since November 2000. For 2007–08, he returned to the IMS Radio Network for the Indy 500, reporting from the turn two position.
In 2008, Jenkins returned to the ESPN booth for two IndyCar races, the Rexall Edmonton Indy and the Nikon Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise. Regular play-by-play announcer Marty Reid was unable to broadcast because of prior engagements.
In 2009, the IndyCar Series started a new television contract with Versus. Jenkins was signed as the chief announcer, and returned to Indy racing full-time for the first time since 2001. He opted out of reprising his turn two role on the radio network, because Versus was hosting a post-race show, and Jenkins would not have time to arrive at the studio in time. Jenkins, however, recorded segments for air on the radio broadcast, as all three living "Voices of the 500" (Page, Jenkins, and King) participated in the broadcast. Jenkins worked for Versus in 2009 and 2010.
In 2011, Versus was bought by NBC Sports Group, becoming NBCSN. NBC inherited the IndyCar rights and hired Jenkins to continue as lead announcer for IndyCar on NBC. During the month of May, and on race day at the Indianapolis 500 (which ESPN/ABC still has the rights to), he continued his part-time work on the public address announcing team, a gig that continues for the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard and the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Jenkins was involved in NBCSN's wraparound coverage of the week of the 500. He announced on 2012 Indianapolis 500 Carb Day airing on May 25, 2012, that he would retire from broadcasting after the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships in Fontana, California, in September. Jenkins announced the retirement as a result of his wife Pam, who had terminal brain cancer and died shortly after the season ended.
For 2013, he worked in public address system at both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the United States Auto Club's Silver Crown Series, Jenkins also returned to NBC in a reserve role at the Indianapolis 500 during Carburetion Day coverage and race day coverage, including final practice, the pit stop contest, and the Firestone Freedom 100. This will be as a substitute for Leigh Diffey, his successor on IndyCar telecasts, who is unavailable that weekend. Jenkins will be available in a reserve role should Diffey be unavailable for other races, alongside Rick Allen, the current lead broadcaster for NBC's NASCAR coverage.
Jenkins, still at the Speedway for the public address system, has also narrated some vignettes for NBC's NASCAR coverage on both weekday programs and race weekends.
Jenkins also has three movie credits, one of which was an on-camera appearance. In order to be realistic, the race announcers in the movie Days of Thunder were the actual ESPN crew of the time, which meant Jenkins was the announcer in several voice-over scenes. While at Speed Channel in 2005, he was the Speed anchor in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He also did voice over work in the movie Kart Racer.
His voice was used in the EA Sports NASCAR video game series, from NASCAR 98 to NASCAR 2001, the Codemasters video game IndyCar Series and IndyCar Series 2005 as well as the Destineer video game Indianapolis 500 Evolution. He also appeared the video game Andretti Racing on the PS1.
His most recent work can be heard in the trailer for the independent film Trifocals (March, 2007).