Bob Jenkins Needs Us Now

If you are any type of racing fan, you know the voice of Bob Jenkins. Since the late seventies, his voice has brought live racing events, as well as commentary, to radio listeners and TV viewers alike. He hosted a weekly magazine show on ESPN called SpeedWeek, which featured stories from all forms of racing. In the days before the internet, it was about the only way a racing fan could stay up to date with what was going on in the racing world. Jenkins co-hosted the show with the late Larry Nuber from 1983 until Nuber left the show in 1989. Jenkins remained as host until the show went off the air in 1997.

His tenure on SpeedWeek doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the career of Bob Jenkins. I won’t go into his career here, but suffice it to say, it was varied and very successful. His smooth voice and delivery is soothing to the racing soul. While many will relate his voice with NASCAR, teaming up with the late Benny Parsons for many years – I will always think of Jenkins being the radio voice of the Indianapolis 500 from 1990 until 1998, before becoming the television voice on ABC from 1999 to 2001.

When Versus became the cable home of what is now the NTT IndyCar Series in 2009, Bob Jenkins was tabbed as the capable and very familiar voice of the network. He continued in that role after Comcast bought NBC and re-branded the channel as NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). Jenkins announced he would retire from those duties at the end of the 2012 IndyCar season to care for his wife, Pam, who was terminally ill with brain cancer. She passed away on October 25, 2012.

Since 2013, Jenkins has been a mainstay on the IMS PA system, sharing duties with Dave Calabro, although it was a common sight at IMS during the Month of May to see Jenkins tending to the needs of an aging Tom Carnegie, after he retired from the microphone in 2006 until Carnegie’s death in 2011.

Many race broadcasters have passion in their voice, while many have such a smooth and relaxed delivery. Bob Jenkins was one of the select few that possessed both. I have associated his voice with motor racing for pretty much of my adult life.

Not only is Jenkins a passionate and elite broadcaster, he never considers himself anything more than a fan. He has indulged me in a few casual racing conversations, when he had no clue what my name was or that I had a small blog. On numerous occasions, I saw him treat other fans with the same respect as he would a Roger Penske or Tony Kanaan. According to the video, he never got past the point of being completely awe-stricken at how lucky he was to get to do what he does for a living.

Unfortunately, the seventy-three year-old Jenkins now finds himself in a fight for his life. His voice has brought so much to our lives, but now he needs us.

In this episode of the new video series Behind the Bricks, an emotional Jenkins reveals to IMS President Doug Boles that he is suffering from brain cancer, the same disease that took his wife nine years ago. He explained that since he and his wife did not have children that he considered fans of the Indianapolis 500 to be his family and he wished to go public and share this news with all of us.

This coming May, we may or may not hear the familiar voice of Bob Jenkins on the PA system. He will try, but he is undergoing chemo and radiation for the two malignant brain tumors that were discovered back around Christmas. After watching my own wife struggle through the effects of chemotherapy, I certainly understand why he suspects he may not be up for a visit to the track in May.

In the video, Bob Jenkins asks for the much-needed prayers of all race fans in order to win his battle. I don’t mean to come off as overly-preachy – after all, this is a site about racing; but if I have learned one thing in Susan’s battle with cancer – it is to never underestimate the power of prayer. She has responded well to her chemo and just underwent successful surgery just a couple of weeks ago. Her battle is not over, but all indications for now point to her being on the road to recovery. She has had many, many people praying for her that we have never even met. Those prayers appear to be answered.

I don’t pretend to know anything about brain cancer, nor has he gone into specifics about it. But I know it is very serious, yet I know it is not a death sentence. Former President Jimmy Carter was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015 at the age of ninety-one. Now the former president is ninety-six and is still building houses for Habitat for Humanity. I may be comparing apples and oranges, but Jenkins is a lot younger and a lot more fit than the former president. His voice was shaking some in the video, but I think that was more of a function of nerves and emotions, than his lack of strength.

I do know this, however – Bob Jenkins needs our prayers and our thoughts of concern. With his wife gone, it sounds as if he has very little family to support him throughout this ordeal, so he has to depend on his fans to get him through this. Drop him a note, a card or an e-mail to let him know how much he means to us and how we want him to recover from this. Doug Boles later posted on Social media that well-wishers can send a note or a card to  Bob Jenkins at IMS, 4790 W. 16th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222. They will make sure he gets them. I know how much just a quick note meant to Susan on some of her bad chemo days. I don’t think Bob Jenkins is any different than any of us.

Please keep Bob Jenkins in your thoughts and prayers. He is still very much needed and appreciated in the racing community.

George Phillips

6 Responses to “Bob Jenkins Needs Us Now”

  1. So sad. He’s such a great guy. I totally agree with you about the power of prayer. I’ve lost my father, aunt (god-mother) and my grandmother just was moved into a hospice all within a year in a half. Prayer is one thing that keeps me strong. With Covid it’s tough to have that community feel or outreach. Having friends or any kind works gets through some darker days.

    Prayers for you George, Susan, and now with Bob. One day at a time.

  2. Thanks for doing this post George. A great reminder that it’s all the people coming together as one, that make the Indianapolis 500 the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Without, the voices, the characters, the stories, the drivers, owners, fans, track workers, crew, etc., it would be just another race. Prayers and thoughts to Bob as he continues the most difficult race of his life.

  3. I would like to send a email to Bob with my best wishes for a complete recovery, but I don’t know his email address.

  4. Thanks for the “Behind the Bricks” link.

  5. billytheskink Says:

    I feel like I cannot even begin to give back anything equal to what Bob Jenkins has given me as a racing fan over the years. Prayers for Mr. Jenkins as he battles this awful disease.

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