Every generation of race fans has their driver who should have won the Indianapolis 500. For some, it was Ted Horn. For others, it was Michael Andretti. And now the complete story of the most fabled driver to never win at Indianapolis has finally been told. Hard Luck Lloyd: The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Texan Lloyd Ruby lays out the life and career of Lloyd Ruby like never before.
Author John Lingle has gone to incredible lengths to tell Ruby’s full story, from his humble beginnings on the dirt tracks of Texas and Oklahoma to his racing successes and his annual heartbreak at the Indianapolis 500. It is truly a tale of perseverance and determination that led to one of the greatest racing careers of his generation.
From the beginning of the book, Hard Luck Lloyd is packed with information and details that race fans won’t find from other sources. Lingle has successfully portrayed Ruby as he truly was, a hard-working driver from the smallest of beginnings, who never passed on opportunity to drive anything with an engine, and who became one of the most versatile and revered drivers of the 1950s and ’60s. It is little wonder why he was so adored by fans yet universally admired and respected by his competitors.
When race fans think of Lloyd Ruby, the most prevalent thoughts are his years of heartbreak at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But those heartbreaks are only a small part of a much greater career, and Lingle has naturally woven those stories into the bigger picture of Ruby’s life. Though he is best known for those heartbreaks, Ruby had an illustrious career in many forms of motorsport, from motorcycles and midgets to several years of being nearly unbeatable in sports cars.
Some of the best parts of the book are those parts that detail the relationships Lloyd built during the various points in his career and that would continue throughout the rest of his life. Personal relationships with men like Bob Nowicke, Ebb Rose, Dan Laycock, and many others lasted long after their professional relationships ended and spoke to the kind of gentleman Ruby truly was.
Interviews with some of the greatest names in auto racing history – AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, The Unsers – as well as Ruby’s family and many of the men who helped build Ruby’s career are sourced throughout the book, lending their knowledge and credibility to the stories portrayed. Behind the scenes details of Lloyd’s dealings on the track and off keep the reader engaged from cover to cover without ever bogging down the flow of the book with senseless and useless information.
The photography within the book is nothing short of stellar as well. Packed with over 275 color and black-and-white photos, many of which are from the private collections of Ruby’s family and those closest to him, show the visual progression of his career that spanned from the 1940s through the 1980s.
After finishing Hard Luck Lloyd, readers will have a much greater understanding and appreciation for the man who always called Wichita Falls, Texas, his home. Lloyd was certainly no one-trick pony, and anyone who was never able to experience and watch the career of Ruby will be well served to absorb this epitome of the way things used to be.
It’s too often forgotten these days that a book’s true purpose is to tell a story that might not otherwise see the light of day. John Lingle has done that cohesively and masterfully with Hard Luck Lloyd: The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Texan Lloyd Ruby.
I went into this book with little knowledge of Ruby’s career outside of his inability to close the deal at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. By the time I was finished, I had a much improved appreciation for his talent and success in a much broader portfolio of racing that included midgets, stock cars, and sports cars.
And if I ever need to go through an abridged version, there’s a full list of Ruby’s career statistics in the back that makes a spectacular reference. That in itself could be worth the purchase price for some racing enthusiasts.
Moreover, the book painted a startlingly vivid and at times gruesome picture of the 1950s and 60s era of motor racing in North America, how great the risks and small the rewards were and how quickly things could turn very sour. Perhaps the book’s greatest accomplishment is its ability to inform and inspire genuine awe for what the racers of that era went through for some prize money and a glorification that was very rightfully earned.
The book’s glossy pages and its hundreds of high-quality photos immerse the reader into the imagery of the time and create a personal connection with the content on display. Quotes from IMS historian Donald Davidson and some of Ruby’s greatest competitors – including Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, and Bobby Unser – work alongside personal accounts from Ruby’s family and friends to create a complete retelling of the man Ruby was on every level.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to read Hard Luck Lloyd and experience well-executed exposure to a story I might not otherwise have known so fully. It is a true gem and a must-have for the bookshelf of any race fan with an interest in the rich history of the sport.
John Lingle will be on hand in Indianapolis this weekend to sell and autograph copies of Hard Luck Lloyd. Visit him at the Racemaker Press booth in the Memorabilia Show at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 24th at 2:00 PM.