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Silver Crown
Monday, 9 August 2021


Bob Jenkins at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in 2013. Bob Jenkins at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in 2013. John Mahoney Photo


By: Richie Murray - USAC Media

Indianapolis, Indiana (August 9, 2021)………Bob Jenkins, a fixture on television, radio and public address systems at auto racing events over the past four decades, passed away on Monday, August 9, 2021, following an eight-month battle with brain cancer.  He was 73 years old.

Jenkins' career as a commentator took him to events all across the auto racing landscape, beginning with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network in 1979 where, shortly after, along with fellow commentator Paul Page, Jenkins launched the USAC Radio Network.

That same year, Jenkins was hired on at a fledgling new sports network known as ESPN and served as the television host of the first broadcasted event of an auto race on the newly-created station, the 1979 Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial for USAC National Sprint Cars at Indiana’s Salem Speedway.

Paired with Larry Nuber, Jenkins announced numerous USAC events on ESPN between 1979-1987 at such storied short tracks as Eldora Speedway, the Terre Haute Action Track, Indianapolis Raceway Park and the Indianapolis Speedrome where, on July 24, 1986, Jenkins was the lead announcer during one of USAC’s most historical nights.

That evening’s USAC Regional Midget event marked the first official broadcast of USAC racing on ESPN under the “Thursday Night Thunder” branding and was also the night in which Bev Griffis became the first woman driver to win a USAC-sanctioned feature.

With a multitude of duties as an announcer for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage along with weekly Speedweek hosting gigs, CART events and more, Jenkins was absent from ESPN’s USAC Thursday and Saturday Night Thunder events until returning in 1996, a role in which he’d remain until the end of the series at the conclusion of the 2002 season.

Jenkins’ final official role with the United States Auto Club came during the 2013 season where he was on the mic as the public address announcer for all USAC Silver Crown racing events throughout the year.

Among Jenkins’ notable occupations in the sport are various roles with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network’s coverage of the Indianapolis 500 starting in 1979 through the 1998 season before accepting the role of television announcer for the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Racing League on ABC and ESPN between 1999 and 2003.

He’d make a return to IndyCar with the IMS Radio Network and once more on television as the anchor of Versus/NBC Sports' coverage of the series between 2009 and 2012 and served as a public address announcer throughout the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway between 2013-2020.

Furthermore, he, along with color commentators Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett, were the colorful personalities who brought NASCAR racing to the masses for an entire generation from the 1980s through 2000.

A Liberty, Indiana native, Jenkins attended countless dirt track auto racing events as youth with his father.  Young Jenkins witnessed his first “major” race as an eight-year-old at Ohio’s Dayton Speedway in 1956, a USAC non-points Championship event won by Ed Elisian, and remained a race fan, first and foremost, for the remainder of his life.