Two beloved figures in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history have been elected to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame: two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, and longtime motorsports radio and television personality and IMS Public Address announcer Bob Jenkins.
The two were chosen from a ballot of 14 nominees by a distinguished panel of more than 140 auto racing journalists, participants and historians. Wheldon and Jenkins will be formally inducted into the elite group Thursday, May 23 at the 2019 IMS Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers Dinner, presented by Firestone, at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott.
Wheldon was a favorite with fans and in the paddock and he was equally successful on the track. The Englishman earned 16 wins in 128 career NTT IndyCar Series starts, including the 2005 and 2011 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. After finishing second in the series championship to Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan in 2004, Wheldon earned the 2005 title with Andretti. He joined Chip Ganassi Racing in 2006 and tied Sam Hornish Jr. in points – but lost the championship on the tiebreaker (most wins).
Nicknamed “Lionheart,” Wheldon was a native of Emberton, Buckinghamshire, England, and despite his early upbringing in karts and junior road-racing series, he excelled on ovals and professed a great love and respect for the 2.5-mile IMS oval.
Wheldon tragically lost his life in a multicar crash during the season-ending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16, 2011.
Jenkins, who was born in Richmond, Indiana, and grew up in nearby Liberty, has been a familiar face and voice on national motorsports coverage since 1979, when he was one of the first on-air employees of a new cable sports network, ESPN.
Indiana University graduate Jenkins was the anchor for ESPN’s weekly “Thunder” series national broadcasts of USAC Sprint and Midget races all over the Midwest. Jenkins also anchored hundreds of NASCAR broadcasts, forming a popular team with former drivers Benny Parsons and Ned Jarrett, on ESPN and ABC from 1979 until 2000, including the first seven Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard races.
After several years as a reporter for the IMS Radio Network, Jenkins was “The Voice of the 500,” serving as chief announcer for the global broadcast of the race, from 1990-98.
Jenkins later anchored NTT IndyCar Series broadcasts on the Versus network (now NBCSN) and retired as an anchor in 2012. He continues to lend his voice to the IMS Public Address during events and is frequently a master of ceremonies for major racing functions.
“We’re extremely pleased that the IMS Hall of Fame voting panel have chosen Dan and Bob to be enshrined with so many legends of motorsport,” said Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation, which operates the IMS Museum. “Both of these men have never been shy about their love for IMS. Dan was more than a great father, husband, son and friend – we celebrate the man he was and his enthusiasm for life.
“Bob has brought to life some of the most memorable moments in IMS history – the closest ‘500’ finish in 1992 and Jeff Gordon’s victory at the inaugural Brickyard 400 immediately come to mind. His contributions to the Speedway are many.”
IMS Hall of Fame inductees are announced each year on “Founder’s Day,” March 20, the date in 1909 when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Company was officially formed.
For more information on the IMS Museum, please visit www.indyracingmuseum.org