A lifelong Hoosier, Bob Jenkins, BS’69, earned the nickname the “voice of the Indianapolis 500” after spending more than 50 years on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. He attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1960 and only missed two races from that year until his death in 2021.
Jenkins led the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s global broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 from 1990-1998. He called the closest race in Indianapolis 500 history in 1992, when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear by just 0.043 seconds.
Jenkins majored in radio and television at IU, and was a DJ for WQAD, the campus radio station that broadcast out of Wright Quad. After graduation, he worked as a news reporter at radio stations in Fort Wayne and Valparaiso, and then co-anchored the nationally syndicated farm news show “AgDay” out of Indianapolis. He landed his first motorsports gig in 1979 — backstretch announcer on the IMS Radio Network — and launched the United States Auto Club Radio Network shortly after that.
Jenkins was one of ESPN’s first on-air reporters, anchoring “NASCAR on ESPN” from 1979-2000 and hosting ESPN’s “SpeedWeek” from 1983-1997. Throughout his career, Jenkins announced more than 400 NASCAR races.
Jenkins was also the TV announcer for the first seven Brickyard 400 races, including Jeff Gordon’s victory at the inaugural Brickyard 400.
Jenkins’ prominence in the motorsports world extended beyond the PA box — he appeared in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and was a voice actor in several video games, including EA Sports' “NASCAR.”
After the end of the 2012 IndyCar season, Jenkins retired from broadcasting to care for his wife, Pam, who had been diagnosed with cancer. After her death in 2013, Jenkins returned to television broadcasting and served as a public address announcer of the Indianapolis 500. He was a frequent master of ceremonies at 500-related functions, including the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration.
He was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2019.
Jenkins won the American Motorsports Media Award of Excellence (then known as the Henry T. McLemore Award) in 2001, the Bob Russo Founders Award in 2008, and the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence in 2021.
After Jenkins’ death, Dan Harvey, BA’72, and Beth Harvey, BA’73, created the Bob Jenkins Memorial Scholarship at The Media School. Dan met Jenkins when the two lived on the same floor in Wright Quad during their freshman year at IU, and the two remained lifelong friends.
The Bob Jenkins Memorial Scholarship benefits undergraduate students with a demonstrated interest in a career in sports broadcasting.
A two-story mural in his hometown of Liberty, Indiana, now memorializes him. Unveiled in 2022, it’s a rendering of a frequently used photograph of him smiling while wearing his headset, with a race track in the background. A quote accompanies the portrait: “I was just a race fan that got lucky.”