Sprint Car Crash Claims Leffler

Jason Leffler

Jason Leffler: September 16, 1975 - June 12, 2013

Photos: Remembering Jason Leffler | Audio: Leffler on "Winged Nation - Feb. 19 

Jason Leffler died from injuries suffered in a crash Wednesday night during a 410 sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J.

He was 37.

Sgt. Adam Grossman, public information officer for the New Jersey State Police, confirmed to Motor Racing Network that a 37-year-old driver was pronounced dead at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. Bridgeport Speedway confirmed in a tweet that the evening’s racing program had been canceled after a crash involving Leffler.

The Delaware County (Pa.) medical examiner's office determined the cause of death as "blunt force neck injury.'' The autopsy was conducted Thursday.

Sgt. Grossman said the accident happened about 8:30 pm. He stated that the driver was extricated from the car and transported by ambulance to Crozer-Chester Medical Center. The accident remains under investigation.

NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday night: “NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening. For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.”

Leffler, who was from Long Beach, Calif., competed in 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup races from 2001 to this year. 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 at 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.

With fewer NASCAR opportunities this season, Leffler decided to run winged sprint cars.

“I’ve raced a lot of dirt in my life,’’ Leffler told Motor Racing Network’s “Winged Nation’’ in February. “I figured if you’re going to race sprint cars it better be a wing car because you can do it all over the country.

“I couldn’t really get anything going in NASCAR that was competitive. That start-and-park deal is not for me. I had a good run there for over a decade, so it’s time to get back racing. I’m pretty excited for this year.’’

He admitted in the interview how tough last year had been.

“Last year I did the part-time truck deal, and I really didn’t have anything,’’ Leffler said. “That was the least amount I raced I think since I was 18. Mentally, it wasn’t good. I don’t like being home. I just like being in the race car at the race track.’’

NASCAR drivers expressed their grief via Twitter about Leffler's death.

Joey Logano said: “Extremely sad to hear about @JasonLeffler. spent a lot of time racing with him. Gone way too soon. Prayers to his entire family.’’

Brad Keselowski said: “Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family. Thinking about his little boy ...

Martin Truex Jr. said: “Another racer gone too soon. So sad, Our thoughts are with his familiy and friends.’’

Landon Cassill said: “Had a great talk with him just the other day. We reminded each other why we love racing and do what we do. He was family.’’

Kyle Larson said: “Such sad news tonight. Leffler was a great person and even better dad. I am glad I got to know him. Rest in peace.’’

J. Douglas Boles, chief operating officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, issued a statement: "We are very saddened at the passing of Jason Leffler. 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. Jason was a terrific guy who always had time for everyone. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans.’’

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 and ran in the Indianapolis 500 that year, finishing 17th.

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 Cup races 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.

Leffler leaves behind a son Charlie Dean Leffler.

Story updated June 14

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