Jason Leffler

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Jason Leffler
Jason Leffler.jpg
Born (1975-09-16)September 16, 1975
Long Beach, California, U.S.
Died June 12, 2013(2013-06-12) (aged 37)
Bridgeport, New Jersey, U.S.
Cause of death Blunt force neck injury from racing accident
Height 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m)
Weight 130 lb (59 kg)
Achievements

1997, 1998, 1999 USAC National Midget champion

1998 USAC Silver Crown champion
Awards 2003 inductee, National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career
73 race(s) run over 9 year(s)
2013 position 52nd
Best finish 37th (2001)
First race 2001 Daytona 500 (Daytona)
Last race 2013 Party in the Poconos 400 (Pocono)
Wins Top tens Poles
0 1 1
NASCAR Nationwide Series career
294 race(s) run over 12 year(s)
Best finish 3rd (2007)
First race 1999 Kroger 200 (IRP)
Last race 2012 Great Clips 200 (Phoenix)
First win 2004 Federated Auto Parts 300 (Nashville)
Last win 2007 Kroger 200 (IRP)
Wins Top tens Poles
2 107 8
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career
56 race(s) run over 7 year(s)
Best finish 4th (2002)
First race 2000 Power Stroke 200 (IRP)
Last race 2012 Ford EcoBoost 200 (Homestead)
First win 2003 MBNA Armed Forces Family 200 (Dover)
Wins Top tens Poles
1 35 10
IndyCar Series career
3 race(s) run over 2 year(s)
Best finish 30th (2000)
First race 1999 Transworld Diversified Services 200 (Disney)
Last race 2000 Indianapolis 500 (Indy)
Wins Podiums Poles
0 0 0

Jason Leffler (September 16, 1975 – June 12, 2013) was an American racing driver from Long Beach, California. Leffler began racing in the open-wheel ranks, competing in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 before moving to primarily NASCAR competition. He died from injuries sustained in a 410 sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway in Bridgeport, New Jersey.

Racing career[edit]

Open wheel career[edit]

Leffler began his career racing midget cars in the USAC series, where he won three consecutive midget championships from 1997 and 1999, as well as the Silver Crown series championship in 1998. He was the third driver to win three consecutive midget car championships.[1] He won the Hut Hundred and Belleville Nationals in 1997, and the Turkey Night Grand Prix and Copper Classic in 1999.[1] He won his second Turkey Night Grand Prix in 2005.

Roger Penske met Leffler at the 1998 Hut 100. Leffler's success also caught the attention of Joe Gibbs Racing, a team which had previously signed Tony Stewart from the USAC ranks. Leffler joined the team in 1999 and made four starts in the Busch Series during the season with moderate success. At the same time, he also started a race in the Indy Racing League at Walt Disney World Speedway in the No. 5 Treadway Racing machine, but finished last after crashing early in the race.

Leffler made his first, and only, start in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. This effort was put forth by Treadway Racing with backing from Roger Penske's United Auto group. Leffler qualified in the 17th position, which was also where he finished; three laps behind race winner Juan Pablo Montoya.

NASCAR career[edit]

During the 2000 season, Leffler drove full-time for the No. 18 MBNA sponsored Busch team. He finished twentieth in the championship and earned three pole positions during the year and finished second at Phoenix. He also made two IRL starts, among them a start for Treadway in the Indianapolis 500 where he started and finished seventeenth. After that season, he moved up to the Winston Cup Series to drive the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Intrepid in Winston Cup, which was sponsored by Cingular Wireless. During his inaugural Cup season, he won the pole at the inaugural race at Kansas Speedway, but had only one top ten finish and four failures to qualify. After his 37th-place finish in the championship, Ganassi replaced him with Jimmy Spencer for the 2002 season.

Leffler joined Ultra Motorsports in 2002 and had great success early on with the team. In his first year, he tied a single season Craftsman Truck Series record by scoring eight pole positions, and qualified no worse than eighth at any race during the season. Despite not winning a race, he had six second-place finishes and a fourth-place finish in the championship. Leffler finally broke through in 2003 when he scored his first career victory at Dover. Despite being in the top ten in points however, he was fired from his Ultra Motorsports ride after taking over in the Haas CNC Racing No. 0 NetZero Pontiac, which breached his contract with the Dodge-funded truck team. He won the 2002 Night before the 500 midget car race.

Leffler in the No. 32, racing at Daytona in 2006

Leffler made ten starts in the Sprint Cup with Haas before Ward Burton took over. Haas then moved Leffler to the Haas Automation No. 00 car in Busch for the remainder of 2003, and later all of 2004. At Nashville Superspeedway in 2004, Leffler scored his first career Busch Series victory. He was running third in the points when the team released him from his contract. He ended up finishing twelfth in the championship despite missing the last seven races.

Shortly after being replaced at Haas, Leffler signed a deal to re-join Joe Gibbs Racing for 2005, taking over a newly created Cup team sponsored by FedEx. The No. 11 Chevrolet was regularly outside of the top 35 in points, meaning that it was not guaranteed a starting spot for all races; Leffler was unable to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600 because of it. He was replaced by Terry Labonte for the two road-course races and, eventually, was fired from JGR after nineteen starts in which he failed to record a top ten finish. He was replaced by a mix of Labonte and JGR developmental drivers J.J. Yeley and Denny Hamlin, the latter of whom took over the car full-time the following season.

While racing with Gibbs, Leffler briefly raced with Braun Racing in the Busch Series, a team that had lost their regular driver, Shane Hmiel, to a drug suspension. After leaving Gibbs, Leffler joined Braun Racing on a full-time basis for the remainder of the season. Leffler has scored four top ten finishes with Braun in nine starts for the team.

For the 2006 season, Leffler was signed to return to Braun Racing to drive the No. 32 Chevrolet. The team carried sponsorships from Lucas Oil, Fraternal Order of Eagles, and ABF U-Pack Moving. The No. 32 team became the No. 38 team with sponsorship from Great Clips after it merged with Akins Motorsports. Jason also attempted to qualify for the second to last race of the chase at Phoenix in the No. 71 for Braun Racing but failed to qualify.

Leffler's No. 38 in 2009

During the 2007 season, Leffler won the pole for the Winn-Dixie 250 at Daytona International Speedway. He finished ninth. Leffler would make NASCAR history July 28, 2007 as he passed Greg Biffle with two laps remaining to win the Busch Series Kroger 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park. The win marked the first race victory for a Toyota Camry in Busch Series competition, and the first win for a foreign manufacturer in a top-tier NASCAR series since Al Keller won in a Jaguar in 1954. The win also marked Leffler's second career Busch Series win and first win since the 2004 season. Leffler returned to Sprint Cup in 2008 for a few races in the No. 70 Haas CNC Chevy while driving full-time for Braun Racing's No. 38 Toyota Camry.

In 2009 at the July Daytona race weekend it was announced that the No. 38 Toyota car would be shared with Kasey Kahne for the 2010 Nationwide season. Leffler remained in the Great Clips Toyota in 2010 and 2011. In late 2011 he was informed that he was free to pursue other opportunities for the 2012 season.

On January 9, 2012, Kyle Busch Motorsports announced that Leffler would drive the No. 18 truck for fourteen races with sponsorship from Dollar General.[2] However, strings of bad luck and poor finishes plagued the team, and Leffler was released on August 14.[3]

Leffler also returned to the Sprint Cup Series in 2012, driving for Robinson-Blakeney Racing at Watkins Glen International,[4] and for Humphrey Smith Racing at Michigan International Speedway.[5]

Leffler made a single Sprint Cup Series start in 2013, driving Humphrey Smith Racing's No. 19 Toyota Camry at Pocono Raceway in early June; he start-and-parked, finishing 43rd in the event.[6]

Death[edit]

On June 12, 2013, Leffler was involved in a crash during a 410 sprint car heat race at the 58-mile (1.0 km) Bridgeport Speedway in Logan Township, New Jersey.[7] Running second with a few laps left, his car suffered a front suspension failure, causing it to crash into a wall and flip several times.[8]

Leffler was knocked unconscious instantly and paramedics said he was motionless. When it was found that Leffler was not breathing, the rest of the race was cancelled and victory lane ceremonies did not take place. He was airlifted by helicopter to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pennsylvania,[9][10][11] where he was pronounced dead at 9 p.m. EDT.[12][13] An autopsy report stated that the cause of death was a blunt force neck injury.[14]

After news broke of his death, many drivers and racing associations such as NASCAR and IndyCar made statements on the death and gave their prayers. NASCAR drivers competing in the 2013 Quicken Loans 400 had special stickers placed on their cars in honor of Leffler. Denny Hamlin, who replaced Leffler in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota in late 2005 had his car repainted to resemble Leffler's variation.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Jason had a son, Charlie Dean, with Alison East (from whom he was divorced),[16][17] who was five years old at the time of his death;[18] they resided in North Carolina.

Career awards[edit]

Leffler was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. He had 18 national championship midget car wins at that time.[1]

Motorsports career results[edit]

NASCAR[edit]

(key) (Bold - Pole position awarded by time. Italics - Pole position earned by points standings. * – Most laps led.)

Sprint Cup Series[edit]

Nationwide Series[edit]

Camping World Truck Series[edit]

1 Ineligible for series points

American open-wheel[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

IndyCar[edit]

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Rank Points
1999 Treadway WDW
28
PHX CLT IND TXS PPI ATL DOV PP2 LSV TX2 48th 2
2000 Treadway WDW PHX LSV
15
IND
17
TXS PPI ATL KTY TX2 30th 28

Images[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Biography at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
  2. ^ "Leffler joins Kyle Busch's truck team". Fox Sports. January 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  3. ^ Pistone, Pete (August 14, 2012). "Jason Leffler out at Kyle Busch Motorsports". Eye on NASCAR. CBS Sports. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  4. ^ Marquart, Chris (August 11, 2012). "Watkins Glen Notebook: Montoya will start first in Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen". Finger Lakes Times. Geneva, NY. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  5. ^ Pistone, Pete (August 14, 2012). "Michigan entry list features 45 drivers". Eye on NASCAR. CBS Sports. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  6. ^ "Jason Leffler – 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Results". Racing-Reference. USA Today Sports Media Group. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  7. ^ "Leffler remembered as friend, teammate, father". Yahoo! Sports. Associated Press. June 13, 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Gluck, Jeff (June 21, 2013). "Police say mechanical failure caused Leffler's crash". USA Today. Retrieved 2013-06-25. 
  9. ^ Utter, Jim (June 13, 2013). "NASCAR driver Jason Leffler dies after accident in dirt car event". WCNC-TV. Charlotte, NC. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  10. ^ Ryan, Nate; Jeff Gluck (June 13, 2013). "NASCAR's Jason Leffler dead after dirt track crash". USA Today. Tysons Corner, VA. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  11. ^ Boren, Cindy (June 13, 2013). "NASCAR driver Jason Leffler killed in race". The Washington Post. Washington, DC. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  12. ^ "Leffler Dies After Accident in Dirt Car Event". ABC News. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "NASCAR driver Jason Leffler dies from injuries sustained in crash". UPI. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Gluck, Jeff (June 14, 2013). "Autopsy reveals Jason Leffler's cause of death". USA Today. Tysons Corner, VA. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  15. ^ "No. 11 car a tribute to Jason Leffler". ESPN. Associated Press. June 2013. 
  16. ^ Pow, Helen (June 13, 2013). "'They were two peas in a pod': Heartbreak as NASCAR driver Jason Leffler, 37, leaves biggest fan, his five-year-old son, fatherless after horror crash". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  17. ^ Pockrass, Bob (June 14, 2013). "NASCAR driver Jason Leffler had no life insurance, funds being set up for son Charlie". Sporting News. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  18. ^ "NASCAR Mourns Death of Driver Jason Leffler". U.S. News and World Report. Associated Press. June 13, 2013. 

External links[edit]