One Of The Great Georgia Drivers: Rance Phillips

1955 Chevy and Chevelle Days

A familiar place for Rance Phillips - victory lane.

A familiar place for Rance Phillips - victory lane.

“Then Dave Roberts built a ’55 Chevrolet that Laverne Kendrick owned and Eddie MacDonald drove and I bought it,” Rance said. “It did not have an engine with it. I ran that car probably 10 years (Author’s note: For the time that is unbelievable). They outlawed the car for 5 or 6 years but then everyone started dropping NASCAR sanction and went back to running independent. Mr. Klien said we could start running that ’55 again. I pulled it out of the garage and continued to dust ‘em all. I ran that’55 for every bit of ten years at Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Jacksonville.

“Later on Dave Roberts built me a Chevelle. Then Snow brothers built me a Chevelle. And I had a couple of Jig-A-LO’s. And the Allison car was probably one of the most consistent cars I ever had.”

“I ran Swainsboro with the Chevelle,” said Rance. “It was the first race I ever ran there and I won it. Mr. Johnson owned the racetrack and promoted it. Joe Bishop drove his car. I had run in Jacksonville the night before. The flagman Red Kyte lost $100 bet on that day. I think I was the only big block Chevrolet there. He told me that a big block hadn’t won there in years. He told me I wouldn’t win. I sat on the pole and led every lap. Come pay time, He said that I owed him $100.  I said for what?’ ‘I lost a $100 bet on you today!’ He had bet one of the officials in the pits that I wouldn’t win the race. I won it by almost a lap. I had the right tire. I was guessing because I wasn’t a red clay man but I became one later because so many places went to red clay. I ran those black dirt tracks.”

“I had been running for Laverne after Eddie quit and I would say we won 50 or 60 percent of the races we ran,” Rance said.  “I don’t have the statistics but we ran good. He always had good race stuff. I never moved to Tifton. I would meet them at the track with my hat and suit. I wouldn’t see the car between weekends. I drove for 40 percent and I figured I would do better with that than running my own racecar. If something happened to their racecar, I had mine to run in case. If they took a week or so off, I would take my car and race and more than likely win.

“I had Buddy Geiger running my car. He and his dad had a car but mine was a better car. He would come up through the pack and get behind me when I drove the 90 car but wouldn’t pass me. He said ‘If I pass you, you’ll take my ride away.’”

“Cordel Futch was the mechanic and fabricator on the 90 car,” Rance said.  “Eddie Junior drove for him. But they were all such super nice people. It took me about two months to tell them that I wasn’t going to drive for them anymore. But I had already got a deal with Billy Knabb. He was from McClenney, Florida. Only owned about one third of Baker County.

“I drove for Billy for two years. Stevie Moran was the kingpin. In those two years, he won one race and I won the rest. They had a year ole’ car they put me in. It was a Jig-A-Lo from Billy Thomas in Phenix City. Get you a new car Knabb said. Money was no object. I called Billy and he fixed me up with a new car. And it took up right where the ole’ one left off –up front – really going good. Stevie always ran Jack Laughlin engines but I went with H&E (Holmes and Emies) out of Virginia. I always used a 380 to 390 engine – about 386 cubic inches. Bought the first one at the trade show in Daytona but I don’t remember exactly which year. They weren’t cheap but I don’t think you could buy any better or quicker engine. I went to running for myself then until I sold everything I had.”

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