Ned Reynolds got his first taste of Ozarks’ stock-car racing in 1973, when his Hall of Fame sportscasting career was still in its relative infancy.
“Harry Lightfoot was running the Fairgrounds Speedway and he wanted to build up racing with the media,” Reynolds recalled. “It was a Sunday afternoon in April and it was so, blasted cold that I’ll never forget it.”
Reynolds, along with long-time Springfield Newspapers sports editor Marty Eddlemon and some other local media members were invited to an early season race at the Fairgrounds. Lightfoot had a buffet lunch prepared.
“That was a hooking point for me,” Reynolds said – the races, not the buffet lunch.
“Most of the races were on Friday nights and before that I never had an opportunity to get out there,” Reynolds said of a schedule that had him behind the sports anchor desk at KYTV, Channel 3 on weeknights. “After that, I knew I had to get out there and concentrate more on racing.”
Reynolds, one of iconic figures of Ozarks’ sports journalism, is among 10 members of the Hall of Fame class for the 30th annual Ozarks Area Racers Foundation Reunion on Saturday. The headliner at the Ozarks Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex is NASCAR great Mark Martin.
Doors will open at 4 p.m. with an autograph session from 5:30-6:30. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 with a Salute to Champions from local tracks, followed by the Hall of Fame induction. Advance tickets are $15 at O’Reilly Auto Parts locations and $20 at the door.
Area speedways will have informational booths and there will be Ozarks-area racing memorabilia along with vintage and modern race cars on display. One of those cars will be a Mark Martin tribute car. A silent auction featuring various racing items also is scheduled.
Reynolds, a native of Haddonfield, N.J. just outside of Philadelphia, Pa., even wound up as the Fairgrounds’ track announcer for a couple of years in the mid-1970s – when racing at the Fairgrounds was the hottest ticket in town. A Friday-night gathering place, the races would attract several thousand fans each week to Springfield’s north side.
While he’s in multiple Halls of Fame for his sportscasting excellence after nearly five decades at KY3 – where he retired a couple of years ago but still appears on air occasionally – Reynolds said he’s proud to join the Ozarks Area Racing Foundation Hall of Fame. He appreciates the proud heritage of racing in the Ozarks and is glad to have been a part of it.
One of Reynolds’ most memorable projects was KYTV’s “Sunday Speedway” program that ran weekly in 1977-78. Reynolds served as host in the hour-long program that reviewed that week’s races with highlights, commentary and interviews.
That was when Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace were up-and-coming teen stars, cutting their racing teeth against legendary local hero Larry Phillips among others.
“We taped those shows and put them together on Saturdays,” Reynolds said. “Unfortunately, those tapes don’t exist any more. It was a fun to do. We had a good time putting that show together.
“Larry Phillips was the star of the show,” Reynolds said. “When he didn’t win it was because he wasn’t there.”
Reynolds continues to do part-time television work in retirement and regularly hosts the “Sports Reporters” radio show on 98.7 FM five days a week. He also serves as a play-by-play announcer for selected Missouri State and basketball games and Springfield Cardinals baseball games.
He enters the Hall in the “Pioneer” division for those contributing off the track. Other Pioneer inductees are Forrest Lucas, Ronnie Williams, Bill Davis and the late Julian Martin.
“Legend” division honorees for those excelling behind the wheel are Mark Martin, Terry Bivins, Rick Sharp, Robbie Johnson and the late Rayme Johnson.