There have been many hard luck stories from the Indianapolis 500 over the years, but the face of those hard-luck stories was very frequently Lloyd Ruby back in the day. Michael Andretti and his father Mario were notorious for hard luck at Indy, although Mario did take the checkered flag in 1969. But before the Andrettis, it was Ruby who repeatedly had commanding leads in the 500 only to have something happen that would cost him the victory. None other than Parnelli Jones said that “Ruby should have won the ‘500’ two or three times.” Sadly, Ruby passed away this past week from complications of cancer. He was 81 years old.
It was in 1960 that Parnelli Jones came east with the Fike Plumbing Special out of Phoenix which was powered by a small-block Chevy, and began kicking the butts of the venerable Offenhauser-powered cars. If I recall correctly, that was also the last year USAC had a Midwest champion and an Eastern champion. Parnelli won the Midwest title, and some guy named Foyt won the No. 1 in the East. The thing I remember most is the battles they had on the high-banked track there, as well as at Winchester and Dayton – Parnelli in that Fike Chevy and AJ Foyt driving the Offy-powered Bowes Seal Fast Special.