Book Review: Hard Luck Lloyd by John Lingle

March 7, 2014 by

Hard Luck Lloyd, The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Texan Lloyd Ruby  by John Lingle

After several years, most people can’t recall the opponent in a U. S. presidential election.  The winner is remembered in the history books.  The loser is usually just an asterisk in history.

The same is true of auto racing.  Many open-wheel racing fans will recall the 1964 Indianapolis 500, a race marred by a seven car crash killing Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald, was won A. J. Foyt.  Few will recall who placed second (Rodger Ward) much less third, Lloyd Ruby.

Ruby was a driver acknowledged by many of his peers, auto racing journalists and historians to be among the greatest drivers of all times.

In his book, Hard Luck Lloyd, John Lingle traces the racing exploits of Texan Lloyd Ruby.  Raised in the panhandle town of Wichita Falls during the Great Depression, Ruby showed an early aptitude towards speed, first with motorcycles and then on to midget racers where he was victorious 139 times.

Carroll Shelby, auto designer and racer, was integral to Ruby’s transition to open-wheel racers.  According to biographer Ted Buss, Shelby had high praise for Ruby: “There has never been a better race driver than Lloyd Ruby.”  Shelby continued, “When I’m looking for a guy to win races day in and day out, long-distance sports car races, or Indy-type races, there’s nobody in the world I’d pick over Lloyd Ruby.”

Ruby, known for driving with a heavy foot, participated in 177 USAC Championship Car races winning seven.  Yet he was denied the pinnacle of championship racing—a victory in the Indianapolis 500—despite starting the race eighteen times.  In a six-year period (1966-1971), he led the race five times.  Lady Luck never smiled down on Ruby during the Indianapolis 500.

Lingle’s book combines the hard core facts of his racing exploits with insights from Lloyd’s family, racing opponents (who were often friends), journalists and Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian, Donald Davidson.  The result is a book which will provide those people who want “just the facts” with plenty to digest in terms of Lloyd’s racing career.   At the back of the book is a race by race recount of his driving record.

But Hard Luck Lloyd also provides insight into one of the truly good guys of racing.  True to his Texas roots, when not in the driver’s seat, Lloyd always wore a white cowboy hat.  His friends knew him not only as a great race car driver but also someone who was extremely loyal to others, perhaps to his detriment.   Not only a fierce competitor on the race track, he also was an ace gin rummy player and golfer.  Most of all, Lloyd was a family man heading back to Texas to be with the ones he loved.

Lingle has interviewed some of the household names of auto racing—A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby and Al Unser—all of whom held Ruby in high esteem not only for his prowess on the race track but also as a man.  Their stories of Ruby give depth to the character of the man beyond his racing record.  The book is also enhanced by over 275 photographs, many from private collections.

Published by Racemaker Press, this hard cover book is available on Hard Luck Lloyd - The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Texan Lloyd Ruby: John Lingle: 9781935240051: Books.


Sigur Whitaker is an auto historian.  Her second book, Tony Hulman, The Man Who Saved the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be available in May.

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