No. 979
January 16, 2018

About The UjianNasional

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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March 25, 2009

Audi superb at Sebring, but challenging times loom for the American Le Mans Series.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Audi proved once again why they've been one of the most successful road racing endeavors in history last Saturday by winning the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida after a race-long duel with the factory Peugeot 908 HDi machines. The fact that the German manufacturer debuted its brand-new R15 TDI turbo-diesel racer and won the first time out with it is consistent with its phenomenal record in major endurance road racing events over the last decade. Audi team drivers Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen beat Peugeot after a magnificent battle between sports car racing’s two diesel super powers in America's most prestigious endurance race. This year's win by the new R15 TDI at Sebring marked the third time that an Audi prototype has won in its race debut, joining the R8 in 2000 and R10 TDI in 2006, an incredible achievement. And that was the good news of the weekend.

The bad news?

The car count at Sebring was way down, certainly not worthy of America's most prestigious endurance race. And it gets even worse after Sebring, with the Audi and Peugeot teams disappearing to concentrate on resuming their battle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, leaving the ALMS in the lurch, especially at the upcoming St. Petersburg and Long Beach races. Like every other racing series these days, the economy is hurting teams and negatively affecting sponsor hunting, and the ALMS will have to fight to get cars to the grid. Even the vaunted and highly fan popular Corvette team is running only one (Long Beach) of the next four ALMS races as it makes its annual foray to Le Mans before returning to run the rest of the season in GT2 beginning with the Mid-Ohio round in August.

The fact that the ALMS' raison d'etre is its indelible connection to the 24 Hours of Le Mans is both a powerful lure and a tremendous burden at the same time. That the series embraces advanced technologies and alternative/green fuels is definitely the wave of the future for racing, and it remains the place for manufacturers to compete while developing advanced technologies that will actually end up in production cars down the road. But when economic times are tough, those same advanced technologies and alternative/green fuels present even more of a challenge, because the cost to compete in the high-tech series is so high to begin with.

The ALMS will weather this economic storm, however, and I expect as the year progresses things will get better for the series. And there's no doubt that the second half of the season is shaping up to be riveting, with a Titanic battle on tap in GT2 with factory BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche and Panoz teams squaring off in what's promising to be the most intense closed cockpit road racing since the legendary Trans-Am era of 1966 - 1971.

I'll be looking forward to it.

See a special live webcast event hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy with The UjianNasional himself, Peter De Lorenzo, along with auto industry veteran Jason Vines this Thursday evening, April 2, at 7:00PM EDT at . Tune in to see "the bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high-octane truth" and expect a no-holds-barred discussion about what's going on in the industry right now, along with anything else that pops up in our minds. You can chat with us "live" too. Again, that's Autoline Live this Thursday evening, April 2, at 7:00PM EDT at Click for a preview!

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Ford Racing Archives)
Daytona Beach, Florida, February, 1965. Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby, Lloyd Ruby (white driver suit), Leo Beebe and Ray Geddes celebrate the first overall win for the Ford GT in the Daytona Continental 2,000 km race. A special thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the following release on Lloyd Ruby. - PMD

Indianapolis 500 standout Lloyd Ruby, one of the most popular drivers in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, died March 23 in Wichita Falls, Texas. He was 81. The hugely respected and much-beloved Ruby competed in 18 consecutive Indianapolis 500 Mile Races between 1960 and 1977 but never was able to pull off what had always seemed to be the inevitable victory. He led the “500” in five out of six starts between 1966 and 1971, only to have something either break or else delay him in some fashion while in a commanding position. “He should have won the ‘500’ two or three times,” 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones said. Ruby led for a career total of 126 laps, the seventh-highest number by a driver who never won. He finished 12th or higher in 11 different Indianapolis starts, his best finish third with a front-engine car in 1964. He qualified in the first three rows seven times at Indianapolis, with a best of fifth in 1966 and 1968. Ruby won seven USAC National Championship races, including three at Milwaukee, two at Phoenix, and one each at Trenton, N.J., and Langhorne, Pa. In 1970, he won the pole for the inaugural 500-mile race at Ontario, Calif.

A star in post-World War II midget car racing in the Southwest while still in his teens, Ruby never was given credit for his proficiency at road racing. In 1959, he placed second in the fledgling USAC Road Racing series, and in 1961 he drove a privately entered Lotus in the Grand Prix of the United States at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Later a key member of Ford Motor Company’s major international racing effort, he shared the winning car in the Daytona Continental in 1965, and both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1966. His unlikely co-driver in all three of those victories was the expatriate, duffel-coat-wearing Englishman Ken Miles. Although they were eons apart in their upbringing, and seemingly would have had nothing in common, they bonded like brothers. Ruby was to have partnered Miles in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966 but was forced out when the light plane in which he was riding crashed on takeoff from an Indianapolis airport on its way to Milwaukee just a few days before. Eventual Formula One World Champion Denis Hulme replaced the injured Ruby, and the Miles/Hulme combination was leading in the late stages when it was decided, for public relations reasons, to “slow down” the leading car and have the team car of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, running second, catch up to have them take the checkered flag in a side-by-side salute. Le Mans officials subsequently ruled that, because of the order in which the cars had lined up for the “Le Mans” start, the McLaren/Amon car had covered a greater distance. By the time Ruby shared the second-place-finishing Ford with A. J. Foyt in the 1967 Sebring race, Miles had died, lost in a testing accident at Riverside, Calif. Decades later, whenever the Le Mans incident or Miles was brought up, tears would well in Ruby’s eyes. Normally so even-tempered and easygoing, Ruby felt quite passionately that Miles was the moral winner, not only because he had been leading by a comfortable margin and had slowed down in response to team orders, but that over a period of many months, he had performed virtually all of the development work on the cars. It was something Ruby never got over.

Nobody outside of racing could ever possibly have guessed Ruby’s occupation. He was casual beyond belief; red-flag situations at race tracks and the inevitable rain delays never seeming to bother him – because they didn’t bother him. Once asked how he had been able to train himself to deal with such frustrations, he said that it simply never had been a problem with him. He would recall, with a grin, the long-distance “enduros” at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring. While many of the drivers would be up all night, drinking coffee and trying to stay alert, Ruby would have a cot set up behind the pit, instructing crew members to wake him up 15 minutes before the scheduled driver change.

“He was a very special man, dignified, well mannered and quiet,” said three-time Formula One World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, 1966 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. “Not shy, but quiet, and completely out of context with what one would expect a race driver to be. A modest man. Nobody who saw him, if they didn’t know, would ever imagine he was a driver until he stepped into the cockpit. And he was very versatile on the track.”

Mario Andretti once expressed amazement and admiration for the limited amount of time Ruby required in order to get up to speed, whether it be on a road course or an oval, during practice or even tire testing. Ruby’s second time by the start/finish line, Andretti recalled, was usually a real eye-opener.

That Ruby should be held in such high esteem by his colleagues should be of some comfort to his family, friends and followers. When many of the greats are asked to discuss the rivals they have most admired over the years, they tend to use discretion by declining, publicly, to name names, unless they are permitted to mention several. Privately, when pressed to pare down the list, Ruby’s name often is mentioned. One veteran stated flatly that Ruby adapted to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway better than anyone he raced against.

“A soft-spoken Texas lead foot with enormous natural talent,” Indianapolis 500 veteran and American racing legend Dan Gurney said. “He was not a self-promoting type; he was humble. One of the old-fashioned guys who let the results speak for themselves.

“He was a potential winner every time he got behind the wheel. A great oval racer who was also a great road racer.”

At a special ceremony in September 2006 in Wichita Falls, friends arranged for an overpass to be named in Ruby’s honor, the surprising thing being that nothing in that town had previously carried the name of the individual most associated with it. The celebration ended up beginning early and developed into a multi-day gathering of friends and family, including drivers Parnelli Jones, Al and Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Jim McElreath and Ebb Rose. Sometimes, for hours on end, the drivers attended functions and sat at tables, signing autographs well beyond the amount of time to which most would normally agree. They never complained – not once – the main reason being their respect and love for Ruby, the man of the hour.

“He was one of the most kind-spoken men I’ve ever known,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rutherford said. “If he didn’t like what you did or didn’t like somebody, he just didn’t talk about it. That was a Texas trait.”

Said Jones: “A couple of years ago a bunch of us were down in Wichita Falls when they dedicated an overpass in his name. I told them, ‘With Ruby’s luck, this’ll probably end up being an UNDER-pass.’ I can’t say just how sorry I am. I’m really going to miss that guy.”

It also says something of the man that with all the years of his success, and, for a while, his considerable income, he never moved away from the place of his birth. Some of his closest friends were those with whom he had grown up and gone to school. A visit to his home likely would entail a casual drive around town, cruising by the location of his old school, a malt shop or two, a drugstore and his favorite watering hole, a very down-to-earth establishment frequented by powerful townsfolk and city officials who were just as unpretentious as Ruby himself.

One would learn, in speaking with friends, that not only did he once race motorcycles, but that as a teen-ager, he had learned to play steel guitar and became an accomplished player.

In later years, Ruby would do much to assist, without fanfare, in local charitable affairs, some on his own behalf and more than a few in support of his wife, Peggy.

The memories of slow-talking, fast-driving Lloyd Ruby, either in a race car or leaning up against a wall, arms folded, cowboy hat tipped slightly forward and one Western boot crossed in front of the other, toe to the ground, will not soon fade.

Ruby is survived by his wife, Peggy; their son, John; and daughter, Mary Ann.

Services will be at 3 p.m. (ET) Saturday, March 28 at the Wichita Falls Multi-Purpose Events Center, Exhibit Hall A. Visitation will be from 6:30-8 p.m. (ET) Friday, March 27 at Lunn’s Colonial Funeral Home in Wichita Falls. Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery in Wichita Falls.