NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died after an accident in a dirt car event on Wednesday night at Bridgeport (N.J.) Speedway. He was 37.
According to the South Jersey Times, New Jersey State Police confirmed that Leffler was driving a 410 sprint car when he struck a wall at this 5/8-mile high-banked dirt track. He was competing in a qualifying race when the crash occurred around 8:30 p.m. ET. Emergency crews were called to the track.
Leffler had to be extricated from his car. He was reportedly unconscious after the accident happened and had suffered major injuries. Leffler was transported by helicopter to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in nearby Chester, Pa. He was pronounced dead just after 9 p.m.
NASCAR released a statement on the passing of Leffler, saying, "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, a Long Beach, Calif. native, competed in all three of NASCAR's national touring series from 1999-present. He made 73 starts in Sprint Cup, 294 in Nationwide and 56 in the Camping World Truck Series. Leffler, who began racing at age 12, won four USAC championships and was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.
Last Sunday, Leffler made his only NASCAR appearance of the season in the 400- mile Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway. He finished last, driving the No. 19 Toyota for Humphrey Smith Racing.
Leffler scored two Nationwide victories and one in trucks during his NASCAR career. He joined Joe Gibbs Racing full time in 2000, earning three poles and four top-10 finishes with the team, before moving to Chip Ganassi Racing and the Sprint Cup Series in 2001, where he won the pole for inaugural race at Kansas Speedway.
Kyle Busch, who drives for Gibbs' team in Sprint Cup and Nationwide, posted on his Twitter account, "Deeply saddened by the passing of @JasonLeffler tonight. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers."
Leffler also competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, finishing 17th.
"We are very saddened at the passing of Jason Leffler," Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. "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."
Without a ride in NASCAR, Leffler decided earlier this year to return to his grass roots of open-wheel racing.
Leffler was single. He is survived by 5-year-old son, Charlie Dean.
"Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family. Thinking about his little boy," Brad Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, tweeted.