Bob Jenkins, the lead commentator for ESPN’s industry-leading motorsports schedule from its beginning in 1979 to 2003, has passed away at the age of 73.
- Jenkins hosted ESPN’s first race in October 1979, one month after the network debuted. The event, a USAC race in Salem, Ind., had been taped over the summer even before ESPN launched.
- Over the years, the versatile Jenkins anchored race telecasts from a wide variety of circuits, including NASCAR, CART/IndyCar including the Indianapolis 500, Formula One, IMSA, IROC, and USAC.
- He also hosted the weekly program, SpeedWeek, with the late Larry Nuber.
- Jenkins also appeared in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and provided the voice for several video games, including EA Sports' popular NASCAR.
- Jenkins may have been best known around Indianapolis as the radio voice of the 500 from 1990-98, a tenure that included his call of Al Unser Jr.'s first 500 victory in 1992 when he barely beat Scott Goodyear.
- Jenkins grew up in rural Indiana and attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1960.
- Since then, he said he missed only two races — 1961, when he couldn't get anyone to take him, and 1965, when he was on a senior trip.
What they’re saying:
- Norby Williamson, ESPN Executive Vice President, Event and Studio Production & Executive Editor: “Bob was a tremendous contributor to the establishment of ESPN’s credibility in our early days, and he led our motorsports coverage with class, professionalism and enthusiasm for many years.”