Driver Jason Leffler, 37, died Wednesday night after a crash in a 410 sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.
Leffler, who competed in all of the top three NASCAR national series, had to be extricated from his sprint car after it flipped during a heat race. He was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m. at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
According to reports, he was running in second place in the first heat of the program at the 0.625-mile, high-banked dirt oval when his car flipped several times on the front straightaway. It then hit the wall at least once.
The Long Beach, Calif., native, who was affectionately known as “Lefturn” and had the nickname stenciled above his driver’s side window, leaves behind a 5-year-old son, Charlie Dean Lefler.
Leffler competed in 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since 2001. He finished 43rd at Pocono last weekend in his only start this season. He also ran 294 Nationwide races, winning two. He won at Nashville in 2004 and what is now O’Reilly Raceway Park in 2007. He competed in 56 Camping World Truck Series races from 2000-12, winning at Dover in 2003.
Leffler was a member of the National Midget Hall of Fame in 2003. He won four USAC championships, winning three consecutive USAC midget titles (1997-99). He also won the USAC Silver Crown championship in 1998. After running four Nationwide races in 1999, he ran the full season in 2000 for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Leffler moved to the Sprint Cup Series in 2001, driving for car owner Chip Ganassi with a best finish of 10th at Homestead. It would be the only top-10 in his Cup career. He did not drive a full season in Cup again. He ran 19 in 2005 for JGR before being replaced in the ride that would go to Denny Hamlin. Leffler had better success in the Nationwide Series with 107 top-10 finishes. He finished a career-best third in the points in 2007 for Braun Racing. Leffler finished behind champion Carl Edwards and runner-up David Reutimann that season.
As evidenced over the last four days, the entire racing community has come together to express their deepest condolences for the entire Lefler family. At the Nationwide race at Michigan International Speedway, this afternoon, many drivers and owners had stickers placed on their cars to honor Lefler. Several drivers had Jason Lefler’s nickname, “Lefturn“, placed above their door, instead of their own name, as is the custom every week.
Additionally, the racing community has coalesced and formulated a fund for Lefler’s 5 year old son, Charlie Dean Lefler. Hopefully that fund will aid in providing some financial security for Charlie as he grows up without his father.
Competitors will give you all their spare parts so that you can compete against them, all the while wanting to kick you butt in the race!
As I have said many times before, even though the racing community is a fiercely competitive group of men and women, there is a collective feeling of loss amongst all of them, whether they personally knew or raced against Lefler or not! It is an eery non spoken connection that exists almost nowhere else in sports.
To further prove my statement, I will relay to you what I witnessed last night at a local short track race at Visalia, CA. Prior to the race, during the opening ceremonies, the crowd stood to acknowledge the loss of one of the drivers paternal and maternal grandfathers who passed away this past week. The father of that race car driver is one of the local race heroes from Fresno, CA, Gary Scelzi, who was a Top Fuel and Funny Car champion in the NHRA a few years ago.
Additionally, prior to the race, one of the drivers decided to donate all of his winnings from the Friday night race to the fund established for Jason Lefler’s son! That driver is my buddy, the 2013 USAC Western Midget Dirt Track champion, David Prickett!
To repeat my statement from above, racers are a fiercely competitive bunch of men and women! However, even though they are rough, gruff, tough, and sometimes want to knock your block off, they generally have some of the biggest hearts I know!
I know that I have digressed, but my point in the post is to point out that racing is truly a family, even though it may not appear that way at the race track!
The racing community is presently grieving over their loss of Jason Lefler. Nevertheless, they have banded together to try to help out a family that is hurting and trying to deal with the loss of their husband, father, son, brother, and friend.
GOD SPEED JASON LEFLER! MAY YOU REST IN PEACE.