Jason Leffler Remembered
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on June 19, 2013 | 4:57 P.M. EST
"LEFturn" was Leffler's nickname among his fellow racers.
CORNELIUS, N.C. - They came to honor Jason Leffler, but they left with instructions to do more.
“We have something that all we have a part in, every single one of you,’’ Jeff Dickerson said at a service Wednesday afternoon celebrating his friend’s life. “We all have a responsibility in making sure that his son knows exactly who he was and how much he loved his son. From his grandparents to those who maybe met him in passing, we must make sure he is not forgotten.
“When we see Charlie and that same little playful grin that his dad had, we must let him know at every chance we get to tell him that he hung the moon with his dad. That Jason savored every minute he spent with his son. We must let him know about Jason as a driver, a man and a father. That’s what Jason would want from us. It’s up to all of us to make that happen.’’
Dickerson spoke to hundreds of mourners, including about a dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, at Grace Covenant Church. Among those who attended were Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne. President Mike Helton led a NASCAR contingent. Leffler raced in NASCAR’s top three series from 1999 to this season.
Leffer, 37, was killed June 12 in a winged sprint car at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J. when his car veered into the wall during his heat race and overturned. The Delaware (Pa.) County medical examiner ruled that Leffler died from a blunt force neck injury. The New Jersey State Police’s investigation into the accident continues. Leffler leaves behind 5-year-old son, Charlie, who was not at Wednesday’s service.
Leffler’s passion for racing and his son were the themes of the nearly hour-long service that featured laughter, applause and tears.
Clapping followed a montage of photographs that showed Leffler through the years, ranging from a picture of him as a child with a bowl cut haircut that drew chuckles to a toothy class portrait and numerous shots of his racing days that featured him with Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Mike Bliss.
When the slideshow ended, chaplain Kenny Crosswhite, looking at Leffler’s mom said: “We know that this life has ended sooner than any of us desired. Pat, you were talking yesterday, you were saying, “He was my baby. I wanted 40 more years.’ That would have been a wonderful thing.’’
In the years his family shared Leffler, he provided numerous memories. Some were detailed and others hinted with subtle references to rental cars and ice sculptures.
“All of us have those memories of Jason and that little smile he would have,’’ said Todd Braun, whose team Leffler drove for in Nationwide and sponsored Leffler’s sprint car.
For Leffler’s playfulness, Braun told the audience he saw a change when Leffler found out he would be a father.
“Charlie came along and I watched the transformation of Jason from Jason the racer to he became Jason the dad,’’ Braun said. “I’ve never seen a transformation of a person like I did with Jason Leffler. He cared more about Charlie. It was one of the best things I had ever seen. That little ornery kid when we were by ourselves, but, boy, the minute he would have Charlie, he was dad.
“A lot of kids spend their lives saying that they don’t want to be like their parents. I think the best thing ... is for Charlie to say I want to be just like my dad. At the end of the day that’s the best compliment there is to say I want to be like my dad. For Charlie, I can think of no better person that Charlie should be like than his dad.’’
Leffler’s affection for his son was evident in the photos he posted on his Instagram account. Among his most recent pictures was one with Charlie at his son’s graduation from kindergarten last month. Both share wide smiles. Another photo featured the two standing together along the fence at the Charlotte Dirt Track last month. Their backs are to the camera. Leffler, in his driver’s suit, looks to his son. Charlie looks up to his father.
Even with such moments and memories, Braun admits the difficulties he’s had with Leffler’s death.
“I don’t really know how to remember my friend,’’ Bruan said. “I’ll figure it out. I’ve sit down and looked at these pictures, and I don’t know how I’ll remember.
“I know I’ll never forget him.’’
In honor of Leffler, a trust fund has been established for his five-year-old son, Charlie Dean. This trust will serve as the official Leffler Family fund, with all monies going directly to Charlie's needs. Turner Scott Motorsports co-owner Harry Scott Jr., former Braun Racing owner Todd Braun and Steve Overholser, CFO of Great Clips, will serve as trustees.
Donations can be made to The Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust at:
The Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust
c/o SunTrust Bank
232 Williamson Road
Mooresville, NC 28117