NASCAR driver Jason Leffler, whose peers called a “fierce” and “versatile” sportsman, died Wednesday night after a crash during a sprint car race on a dirt track in New Jersey.
The 37-year-old driver was in second place during the race at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, New Jersey, when his car flipped several times, then struck a wall. Leffler was removed from the car and transported to a medical center, where he was pronounced dead.
“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.”
Leffler, a two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide series, was a single father to his 5-year-old son, Charlie. He began his NASCAR career in 1999, and went on to make 423 starts in NASCAR’s three national series. His last full NASCAR season was in 2011.
Originally from Long Beach, California, Leffler also made three IndyCar Series starts, finishing 17th in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. The veteran racer, who went by the nickname “LefTurn” that was always written above his driver’s side windows, had decided to return to sprint car racing this year.
Other race car drivers have taken to Twitter to express their sadness over the tragic news. “Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family,” Brad Keselowski, a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, wrote. “Thinking about his little boy.”
Tweeted IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, “Another reminder of how this sport we love can be so cruel. Thoughts with his family.”
NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer wrote he was “so sad to hear about Jason Leffler,” and called the late racer “a wheel man and a fun fun person to be around.” Added IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter, “Praying for all of Jason Leffler family, especially his little guy Charlie.”
Watch footage from after Leffler’s crash: