Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Jason Leffler unfortunately has succumb to the injuries he suffered during a Winged Sprint Car crash at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey.
Leffler most recently ran at The Sprint Cup level starting and parking for Humphrey-Smith Racing in the No. 19 car. Leffler found not only the most prominence, but the most success at the NASCAR Nationwide Series level where he won twice and had over 100 top-ten finishes over a lengthy career.
The 37 year old was certainly in a period of transition and was looking to return to his dirt roots, where he found success running for successful team owner and fellow NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.
Although pictures of the wreck have made their rounds, details remain spotty as to what exactly caused Leffler’s untimely death. Unlike the crash that paralyzed former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel at Terre Haute Action Track, Leffler’s roll cage seems to have held, but it may have been the violent rollover he experienced which led to his death.
Bridgeport Speedway, a 5/8th mile track, featured a concrete inside wall and a two-tiered guardrail, which is relatively safe for a large dirt oval, but miles away from the standard of safety seen at any NASCAR National Series track over a half-mile.
This unfortunately prompts the discussion of NASCAR’s role in ensuring safety at tracks such as Eldora Speedway, as well as working with Track Almanac creators to determine the overall safety of facilities. For example, after Shane Hmiel’s wreck, many came out to state how bad the safety at the Terre Haute track was.
Although NASCAR regulated tracks to have a preconceived notion of safety installed and dedicated track workers on site, team owners and perhaps NASCAR itself need to begin looking into what tracks a driver can run.
Drivers who run Nationwide or even NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races are certainly taking a risk. Kyle Busch, for example, has previously TORC Off-Road Truck Series races at ovals, which share similar walls to Bridgeport Speedway.
The aforementioned Tony Stewart, among others, regularly run Winged Sprint Car and Midget races at local dirt tracks while touring on the NASCAR circuit. Although leisurely, and just for fun, the risk still exists. Racing always poses that threat, and today is an ugly reminder that anything can happen once the belts are tightened and a driver is strapped in.
Even the most skilled, the luckiest and the strongest are not immune from death itself. Although unlikely, and certainly unprecedented, NASCAR and its team owners should begin to regulate where and what their drivers can maneuver, in order to avoid a tragedy such as this.
Jason Leffler was a humble, talented and hungry driver with a lot of racing left to do. I would like to take this space to join the racing community in praying for his family. Jason Leffler died doing what he loved like so many have before him.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486