INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Longtime racing announcer Bob Jenkins said he plans to scale back his work at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May as he undergoes radiation and chemotherapy treatment for brain cancer.
The 73-year-old Jenkins made the announcement Tuesday near the end of a 24-minute video posted on the speedway’s YouTube account.
In it, Jenkins explained how he woke up with a severe headache on Christmas night and drove to a hospital. Doctors initially thought Jenkins had suffered a stroke, but a further examination revealed two malignant tumors in his right temple.
“I had colon cancer in 1983 and I survived that," he told Speedway President Doug Boles during the interview. “And with God's help and my beloved race fans, I'm gonna make it."
He retired from broadcasting at the end of the 2012 IndyCar season to care for his wife, Pam, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer. He returned to the television booth briefly in 2013 after she died, and he has most recently worked as one of the speedway’s primary public address announcers.
Jenkins joined the IMS Radio Network in 1979 and quickly became popular with his booming, baritone voice and easygoing style.
He also called IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One races for other networks including ABC, ESPN, NBC Sports Network and its predecessor Versus. Jenkins anchored “NASCAR on ESPN" from 1979 to 2000, appeared in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and provided the voice for several video games including EA Sports' popular “NASCAR."
But he may be 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.
“The checkered flag is out, Goodyear makes a move, Little Al wins by just a few tenths of a second — perhaps the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500," Jenkins declared. The victory margin — 0.043 seconds — remains the closest finish in the race's 104-year history.
Jenkins grew up in rural Indiana and attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1960. Since then, he said he has only missed two races — 1961, when he couldn't get anyone to take him, and 1965, when he was on a senior trip.