One Of The Great Georgia Drivers: Rance Phillips

Racing at Jax

Rance Phillips and promoter Julian Klien.

Rance Phillips and promoter Julian Klien.

“The announcer Frank Ironmonger (at Jax Raceway) raked me over the coals for not being there more often,” Rance said.  “I was religiously at the ole’ speedway. I didn’t want to drive that ole’ track. It was dark! I learned to drive by the seat of my pants there. Mr. Klien stopped me at the gate once. He was standing there with his hands behind his back like always. He says to me, ’Listen, you got the fastest car here and I want you to drive it.’ Eldon Yarbrough had won three times in a row and Jimmy Capps had won two times in my car after Eldon. That was five races in a row that my car had won.

“Before it got dark, I would warm the car up. But come race time, I would say no and let Eldon or Jimmy drive. Mr. Klien insisted, ‘I want you to drive that car. I’m gonna pay you a little extra.’ He would give me a couple hundred bucks when I would first get there. I started winning races there. I won 9 in a row. He put a bounty on me. Then he told me, ‘You gotta stop this. You are ruining my show.’ I told him that if I won three more races in a row, could I collect the bounty. He agreed and I won those three races and collected the bounty.”

“I bought a car from Speedy Spiers one time,” Rance said.  “Eldon Yarbrough was driving for him. Speedy built a new one. He told me the car was a good one and was for sale. I went down on a Wednesday and picked it up. When I got it home and started looking at it, that was undoubtedly the heaviest ’65 Chevelle that I had ever seen in my life. I didn’t realize it but he had everything plated and I mean he had a tank. You could ram it into anything and if you didn’t hit a wheel you didn’t really hurt it.

“My man and I put it up on a rack and used a torch and bar saw and started taking everything we could off. Speedy asked me what kind of engine I was gonna run and I said a small block even though I had a couple of big blocks. I picked it up on a Wednesday and we took a week maybe two to fix it. Mr. Klien had a 100-lap race on Saturday night about two weeks later. I put one of my engines – fresh – it was a 327 to tell you the truth. I went down there, sat on the pole and won the race. Speedy came over and said, ’Are you sure that is the car I sold you?’ Yeah, but it weighed some 465 pounds less minus the weight of the engine and rear end (I had changed that too). I had put that thing on an 800-pound diet. Made a real good car.”

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