New Jersey state police have announced that NASCAR driver Jason Leffler has died as a result of injuries suffered in a wreck at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey, according to the Associated Press. Leffler was 37.
Leffler was racing a Sprint Car at the track's "Night of Wings" when his car apparently flipped on the front stretch of the 5/8-mile, high-banked dirt oval. "Jason's left rear tire blew coming out of turn 4 and it made his car spin directly toward the wall," Connor Ferrell, who was at the race, wrote to Yahoo! Sports. "He did 3 or 4 flips before his car came to a stop." According to eyewitness accounts, he was extracted from the car on a board and airlifted out of the track via helicopter. The remainder of the night's racing was cancelled.
According to state police, Leffler was pronounced dead at 9:02 p.m. ET.
Leffler, from Long Beach, Calif., spent most of his decade-plus NASCAR career in the Nationwide series, running full schedules from 2006 to 2011. He had two wins, 42 top fives and 107 top 10s in the Nationwide series. He's also run 73 races in Sprint Cup, most recently at Pocono last week, and 56 races in the Camping World Truck Series, where he posted one victory.
"NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening," NASCAR said in a statement. "For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed."
Prior to NASCAR, Leffler won three straight USAC midget championships (1997-99). He also competed in the 2000 Indianapolis 500, where he finished 17th.
He'd only this year returned to Sprint Car racing, where he planned on competing in 50-65 races. According to his web site, "Jason is excited to get back to the grass roots of racing to connect with fans and old rivalries."
Leffler was extremely close to his son Charlie Dean, who had only recently finished kindergarten. Leffler's Instagram page is full of shots of Charlie Dean, including this poignant one:
Drivers took to Twitter to share thoughts and condolences:
Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family. Thinking about his little boy...
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) June 13, 2013
Extremely sad to hear about @jasonleffler. spent a lot of time racing with him. Gone way too soon. Prayers to his entire family.
— Joey Logano (@joeylogano) June 13, 2013
— AJ Allmendinger (@AJDinger) June 13, 2013
— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) June 13, 2013
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) June 13, 2013
So sad. RIP #LefTurn
— Travis Kvapil (@TravisKvapil) June 13, 2013
My thoughts and prayers are with Jason's family and friends. Breaks my heart thinking of his little boy
— Jeff Burton (@RCR31JeffBurton) June 13, 2013
Thoughts and prayers for Jason Leffler and his family.
— Juan Pablo Montoya (@jpmontoya) June 13, 2013
4 Race car drivers immortality is a way of life. 1 day we find 1 of us 2 be mortal is a day in which we struggle 2 comprehend@jasonleffler
— Parker Kligerman (@pkligerman) June 13, 2013
Lost a good guy tonight in Jason Leffler. Prayers with your family!.
— Bobby Labonte (@Bobby_Labonte) June 13, 2013
I'm completely devastated to hear a bout Jason Leffler. It doesn't seem real. Pray for his family tonight
— Trevor Bayne (@Tbayne21) June 13, 2013