I remember listening to him in old video games and auto races of the 1990s. His voice flowed like the legs of a crimson red wine, and his vocabulary was as large as William Shakespeare. Bob Jenkins was a man that I wanted to be like. He had a genuine passion for the history of American motorsports. It was reported this evening that Jenkins passed away at the age of 73.
We had Bob scheduled to be interviewed on an upcoming episode of Racing Refresh not long ago. In January he and I chatted for some time as we prepped for our planned discussion on air. He was so amused that a young fan was interested in covering his career. It was an unfortunate illness that sidelined our next time together. He touched base with us shortly thereafter and emphasized that he would need to cancel. He knew at this time what we all know. He was dying of cancer.
Motorsports tributes rained with Bob Jenkins name throughout the night tonight. Another guest from our show, and motorsports analyst Bob Varsha provided this comment to us. "Bob was a humble man with a great talent, and an even greater dignity. His voice was the soundtrack for multiple generations of fans. " His words were consistent with how others had described him.
Bob Jenkins considered himself an Indianapolis 500 fan who got lucky. Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans consider themselves lucky to have Bob's voice ringing through the grandstands for decades. While his voice on race day will be missed, his legacy at IMS will last forever. pic.twitter.com/loA5JtHFbd — Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) August 9, 2021
While I never had the opportunity to formally interview Bob, I did adore his career and was fortunate like thousands of others to share a wonderful moment with him.
My father and I attended the Fast Friday events in Indianapolis in 2013. We had some pit passes and his employer shared a VIP suite for the occasion. We were advised by a gentleman at the security desk on the main level to take the elevator to such and such floor and we would be good to go.
We took the elevator up and the doors opened. This was the wrong floor. Directly in front of us was the Team Penske private party. This room wasn't for us, obviously. We would have just taken the elevator back down, but I couldn't help but hear a special voice that sounded way too familiar. It was Bob Jenkins. He was speaking with a journalist and they stepped into our elevator. We took the elevator back to ground level and I was able to chime in that he and Benny Parsons were my favorite announcers ever. He took a photo with me and told me how kind that was. His reaction to my compliment was as genuine as my excitement to meet him.
Bob was kind and genuinely appreciated compliments like this from friends, fans, and the media. He was beyond humbled by the way fans felt about his hard work. I will never forget that day.
Bob shared with the world that he was ill this past spring. He never lost his spirit. "All I want to be remembered as is a race fan who got a job in radio or TV. And for some reason, people liked me." Bob told the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ironically, he passes away the week that the Indycar and NASCAR racing leagues return to the venue he once graced. As the green, white, and checkered flags wave this weekend, there will be a special energy in Speedway Indiana.