|The NASCAR community was left stunned Wednesday night by the news that driver Jason Leffler had been killed in an accident during a sprint-car race in New Jersey. Leffler, 37, died in a crash at Bridgeport Speedway, a five-eighths mile high-banked dirt track in Swedesboro, N.J. He was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m. Eastern time, according to the Associated Press.|
A native of Long Beach, Calif., Leffler has been a fixture at NASCAR’s national level since 1999. The two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide Series leaves behind a young son, Charlie. “NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening,” NASCAR said in statement. “For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.”
According to local news reports from the area, Leffler had to be extricated from his vehicle and was taken by ambulance to a local trauma center, where he later died from his injuries. Bridgeport Speedway immediately suspended racing for the rest of the night after the accident occurred. "We are very saddened at the passing of Jason Leffler,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway Chief Operating Officer J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “He was one of the most versatile race drivers in America, showing his talent by competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during his career. “He also displayed the skills that would help him reach the top levels of the sport by winning four USAC national series titles while winning on tracks throughout the Midwest,” Boles continued. “Jason was a terrific guy who always had time for everyone. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans." “I’m completely devastated to hear about Jason Leffler. It doesn’t seem real. Pray for his family tonight,” Nationwide Series driver Trevor Bayne wrote on Twitter, echoing the sentiments of many who knew the well-liked former U.S. Auto Club champion. “Sitting here in disbelief,” veteran NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler wrote on Twitter. “All I can think about is Charlie. Prayers to his little boy.”
State police were investigating the accident along with track officials, and preliminary information indicated that a mechanical failure on the car led to a loss of control. Leffler made his first NASCAR start this season in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway, where he finished 43rd. Although he competed at NASCAR’s top level for both Joe Gibbs Racing and Chip Ganassi, his best years came on the Nationwide tour, where he finished inside the top 10 in points five times. He won Nationwide races for owners Gene Haas and Todd Braun, and also won a Camping World Truck Series event in 2003 for Jim Smith.
But Leffler’s roots were in the USAC ranks, where he won three midget titles to go along with a silver crown championship. He returned to those roots this season, competing most of the year in a winged sprint car. "Such sad news tonight," Nationwide rookie Kyle Larson, himself a former sprint-car driver, wrote on Twitter. "Leffler was a great person and even better dad. I am glad I got to know him. Rest in peace."
Horrible shame, I liked the guy. No matter how safe race cars there is always the threat of injury and fatality on track. I was hoping Dan Wheldon's death would be the last for a long time. This one strikes much closer to home since I actually watch NASCAR and this...