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Indy 500 announcer Bob Jenkins reveals brain cancer battle, will step back from IMS role

Indy Bob Jenkins dead

Chris Owens

Indianapolis Motor Speedway announcer Bob Jenkins, a former play-by-play voice of the Indy 500, will be stepping back from his role after revealing Tuesday that he is battling brain cancer.

“I’m not going to completely retire; I’m going to say I’m cautiously optimistic about working some of the public address this year, but you will not see me or hear me as much as you have during the past few years,” Jenkins said in an interview with IMS president Doug Boles in the speedway’s “Behind the Bricks” video series. “I’m going to do all I can because I am going through radiation and chemotherapy to knock this cancer out of my brain.

“The thing that I can’t do, although I do every night, I can’t pray as much as all my race fans can do, and I sincerely believe that is a major, major contribution to how this thing is going to turn out. So thank you race fans and everybody watching here at the speedway for your concern and prayers. I want every one of them. I’ll just never get over how much of a help that is going to be.”

Boles told Jenkins “that seat in the PA booth is there any day you want to come in, there’s nothing like Bob Jenkins’ voice to make a race fan feel they’re in the right spot in the month of May when they get here.”

Jenkins has been an Indianapolis 500 fixture for decades, first as a broadcaster for ABC/ESPN and the IMS radio network. He was among four broadcasters to handle Indy 500 play-by-play announcing during ABC’s 54-year run of broadcasting the race.

After also calling IndyCar races on NBCSN and ESPN, he since had settled into the role since 2011 of IMS’ main PA announcer, inheriting a role that Tom Carnegie made famous for 60 years as the voice of the speedway from 1946-2006.

Jenkins said he was diagnosed with two malignant tumors in his right temple after awakening with a severe headache on Christmas night.

“I had colon cancer in 1983, and I survived that, and with God’s help and my beloved race fans, I’m going to make it,” said Jenkins, whose wife, Pam, died of brain cancer eight years ago. “I don’t have a large family, Doug, I have a niece and nephew. But I consider the first people I should tell my family, and my family is my race fans and people like you who contribute to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 500 every year and make it what it is and what it has been since 1911.”

During the rest of the interview (which can be seen here), Jenkins discussed his favorite Indy 500 memories with Boles.