“Hard Luck Lloyd” by John Lingle

HAMMOND, IN: The sub-title of John Lingle’s new biography, “The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Texan Lloyd Ruby”, pretty much says it all. For anyone interested in the history of American auto racing during the ’50’s, ’60’s and ’70’s, this new biography of perhaps the greatest racer NEVER to have won the Indianapolis 500 should be required reading.

"Hard Luck Lloyd" by John Lingle

“Hard Luck Lloyd” by John Lingle

As the author reveals, the versatile Ruby’s saga begins when the Wichita Falls, Texas teenager became a roughneck local dirt track motorcycle racer even prior to his high school graduation in 1946.  Timing is everything they say, and, as the post-war midget racing boom began to spread across the nation, young Lloyd Ruby found himself in the right place and at the right time to launch an auto racing career that would become the stuff of legends for the next thirty plus years.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Ruby spent the first decade of his racing career honing his skill set on the midget circuit, becoming a “doodle bug” legend in far away places like Chicago and throughout Middle America. As midget racing began to fade by the end of the ’50’s, Lloyd began to look for other racing opportunities. Somewhat surprisingly, Ruby’s next career move was into sports cars, which laid the groundwork for the amazing success he later enjoyed on the great road courses of the world.

Given the racing background that he experienced, it’s hardly surprising that Lloyd Ruby became one of the world’s most versatile race drivers. Like his contemporary, the legendary Mario Andretti, Ruby became a threat to win anywhere, anytime; be it dirt or paved course, oval or road course, stock car, sprint car, Indy Car or even Formula 1.

But, with countless victories scored while racing international sports cars, midgets, sprint cars, stock cars and champ cars on his résumé, Lloyd Ruby probably will best be remembered as the greatest driver NEVER able to win the Big One at Indianapolis on Memorial Day!

Author John Lingle does a great job of guiding us through Lloyd Ruby’s star-crossed 18 year career at Indy. What the slow-talking, usually cheerful Texan endured at the Speedway seems more like fiction that fact. On at least four occasions, Hard Luck Lloyd seemed to have the Indy 500 in the bag, only to have fate step in to snatch it away. As one example, the year that Mario Andretti captured his only Indy win in 1969, Ruby was holding a comfortable lead over an overheating Andretti when a re-fueling mishap during a routine pit stop put Ruby in the garage and Andretti in Victory Lane. Had Ruby been able to finish that day, Mario would have likely become the “greatest driver never to have won Indy”, and Lloyd Ruby would have put his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy!

With over 275 color and black and white photos included, “Hard Luck Lloyd” tells the complete tail of “the Pride of Witchita Falls”. The author goes to great lengths to cover all aspects of Ruby’s life; interviewing family members, friends, journalists, racing historians and driver contemporaries such as Mario, Johnny Rutherford, Al and Bobby Unser and A.J. Foyt, all of whom helped to paint a complete portrait of Lloyd Ruby’s life.

If you read the book, it will reinforce something that you probably already knew: they don’t make them like Lloyd Ruby anymore…

“Hard Luck Lloyd” by John Lingle
Racemaker Press
Available from Amazon: $49.95

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