Jason Leffler, a NASCAR driver known as “LefTurn,” was killed Wednesday night in a crash during a heat race at sprint-car event at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.
Leffler, 37, was pronounced dead at Crozer-Chester Medical Center shortly after 9 p.m., New Jersey State Police said. A two-time winner in the Nationwide Series, Leffler struck a wall at around 8:30, police told USA Today, and he had to be extricated from the wreck.
“We are very saddened at the passing of Jason Leffler,” Doug Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s chief operating officer said in a statement (via the Associated Press). “He was one of the most versatile race drivers in America, showing his talent by competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. Jason was a terrific guy who always had time for everyone. Our deepest sympathies are extended to his entire family, team and fans.”
NASCAR extended sympathy to Leffler’s family in a statement and noted, “For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.”
Leffler began his career as an open-wheel driver, then signed with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2000. He finished 20th in points in his rookie season and moved to the Cup Series with Chip Ganassi Racing. He was dropped from the Cup in 2001 for failing to qualify for five of 36 races.
After getting his first NASCAR national series victory in 2003, he made 10 starts for Haas CNC Racing. The following year, he won his first Nationwide Series race and finished in the top 10 in 17 of 27 starts with Haas CNC. Leffler got another chance with JGR, which had added a third car, in 2005 but was fired after 21 races, replaced by Denny Hamlin. Leffler raced in Nationwide full-time from 2006-11
Leffler drove in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and the Brickyard 400 five times. He made 73 starts in the Sprint Cup Series.
He is survived by a 5-year-old son, Charlie Dean.
Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family. Thinking about his little boy…
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) June 13, 2013
Just got out of my Dirt Car after the A-Main to learn about @jasonleffler, I raced ALOT and talked ALOT to Jason, I AM SAD.
— Kenny Wallace (@Kenny_Wallace) June 13, 2013
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) June 13, 2013
Very sad night. What a great guy we lost tonight. Rest in Peace Jason
— Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) June 13, 2013
Absolutely heartbreaking to see pics like these on Leffler’s Instagram. Feel so much sadness for his son. twitter.com/jeff_gluck/sta…
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) June 13, 2013
H/T USA Today, Associated Press