Rex Reynolds got a fast start to being a NASCAR fan. Way back in 1976, he picked a prime time for indoctrination – the Firecracker 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Eventual Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough got the victory. NASCAR got a lifelong follower.
"That summer, a lot of the people in my high school junior class went to Panama City Beach, but me and five other guys went the other direction – to the Firecracker 400," Reynolds recalled. "From that moment I was hooked."
Reynolds, from Hazel Green, Alabama, is representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama, as one of four finalists for The NASCAR Foundation’s Eighth Annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. The award, named in honor of the foundation’s late founder and chairwoman, honors NASCAR fans who are accomplished volunteers working for children’s causes in their communities throughout the United States.
Reynolds’ resume is remarkable because of a longtime commitment to public service, including volunteering on the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama’s board of directors for 13 years. That stint was recognized in 2010 when Reynolds was inducted into the Boys & Girls Club Hall of Fame in 2010. Reynolds, a former Boys & Girls Club member as a youth, recruits sponsors for annual club events and also recruits other volunteers. Reynolds has also served his community as a police chief, public safety director, city administrator and member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
The winner of the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award will be determined via an online fan vote that is running until Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. (ET) at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. The winner will be announced on Nov. 29 during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas.
The NASCAR Foundation will donate $25,000 to the charities represented by the award finalists, with the winner’s charity receiving a $100,000 donation. Since the award’s inception, The NASCAR Foundation has impacted the lives of more than 260,000 children by providing more than $1.2 million in contributions to charities represented by finalists for the award.
Reynolds’ NASCAR memories are numerous. He loves recalling how he slept – or tried to sleep – on a flatbed truck at Talladega Superspeedway. "And in the community where I live now, it’s quiet time at 10 p.m.," he said, laughing at the contrast.
His best memory, though, involves meeting an elderly fan who traveled to races alone and striking up a lasting, valued, friendship.
Winning the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, as far as memories go, would be a keeper. The resulting $100,000 donation would go toward providing daily programs and implementation of a STEM Lab in a potential new Boys & Girls Club in Huntsville, Alabama.
"If you ever invest in these children (at the clubs), you will be hooked forever, which is the reason I am still there," Reynolds said. "They have definitely won my heart.
"I personally have witnessed the impact we have made at the clubs, making life so much better for our young people who desperately need us the most."