Jason Laffler, who has been a regular competitor in all three of NASCAR's three national-level series over the past decade, has died following an accident in a heat race at the 0.625-mile Bridgeport Speedway high-banked dirt track oval on Wednesday night.
The 37-year-old from California crashed into the wall while running second during the event, and his car flipped several times. He was extricated from the wreck and air-lifted to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania but he was pronounced dead shortly after 9pm around half an hour after the original accident.
He is survived by his 5-year-old son, Charlie Dean.
Leffler was a three-time USAC National Midget champion in the late 1990s before being picked up by the Treadway Racing team for a short-lived career in the open-wheel Indy Racing League, which included a start in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 that saw him start and finish in 17th position.
Rather than sticking with IndyCar, Leffler instead opted for a career in NASCAR stock race racing beginning with four starts in the Nationwide (then known as Busch) Series for Joe Gibbs Racing and later competing with Chip Ganassi's Cup team in 2001.
Over the course of the next dozen years Leffler recorded a total of 73 Sprint Cup races, two wins in 294 Nationwide Series races and one from 56 Camping World Truck Series starts. His best championship result was third place in the 2007 Nationwide Series and he also claimed fourth place in the 2002 Truck Series.
Leffler did not have a full-time seat in stock cars this season, but his most recent NASCAR participation was just on Sunday at Pocono for Humphrey Smith Racing, although his race only lasted eight laps before he was sidelined with transmission problems.
The racing world was shocked to learn of the news of Leffler's untimely death.
"NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening," said NASCAR in a statement. "For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed."
"Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family," said current Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski on Twitter. "Thinking about his little boy."
"Thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of Jason Leffler," posted Tony Stewart, an early mentor for Leffler in both IndyCar and NASCAR. "A good man; a good racer. Godspeed friend."
"So sad to hear about Jason Leffler," added Clint Bowyer. "Was a wheel man and a fun fun person to be around."