Sunday, August 31 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-08-31 19:28:29 GMT
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An investigation is underway after NASCAR driver, and Huntersville resident, Jason Leffler died after an accident Wednesday night in a heat race at a dirt car event at Bridgeport Speedway.
The 37-year-old Leffler, who went by the nickname LefTurn, was a two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
He was involved in a wreck and pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m., New Jersey State Police said.
"NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away last evening," officials said in a statement to WBTV on Thursday morning. "For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be greatly missed."
According to his website, Leffler has been racing since he was 12-years-old. He won four USAC championships, was a member of the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, drove in NASCAR for 12 years.
Officials from the Charlotte-base NASCAR Hall of Fame released a statement on Thursday morning.
"Everyone at the NASCAR Hall of Fame is deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Jason Leffler. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to his family, particularly his son Charlie Dean who was so very special to Jason, his friends and fans," the statement read. "Jason embodied the description of ‘a racer's racer,' having competed in all three of NASCAR's top series with wins in both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, multiple forms of open wheel racing and four USAC championships."
"As a reporter, I always found Jason to be extraordinarily open, approachable and accommodating," expressed NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director and MRN Reporter Winston Kelley. "When you approached him, he was the first to extend his hand. The excitement in his voice was evident before every race. Jason will be deeply missed, and I join the NASCAR community in sending my sincere condolences to his family."
The flags at the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be flown at half-staff in observance of Jason Leffler.
"We all know the danger of Racing," Mooresville-based racer David Stremme wrote online Thursday morning. "Our racing family will tell Charlie for years to come how #lefturn loved him and how he loved to race."
From Long Beach, Calif., Leffler made 423 starts in NASCAR's three national series, but won just the two Nationwide races and one Truck Series event in a career that began in 1999.
Many other drivers went on Twitter to express their thoughts and condolences for Leffler.
"Thoughts and prays are with son Charley and Leffler family on a day after a terrible crash took the life of a great person.. RIP Jason," tweeted NASCAR driver Greg Biffle.
Kurt Busch tweeted "Just woke up & saw the news about @JasonLeffler - can't believe it. #prayers for his family 4 this devastating loss."
"Always enjoyed being around @JasonLeffler," driver Casey Mears tweeted. "Great guy! Thinking about and prying for those closest to him."
"Sitting here in disbelief," veteran NASCAR driver Elliott Sadler wrote on Twitter. "All I can think about is Charlie. Prayers to his little boy."
Leffler leaves behind a young son, Charlie Dean.
After losing his NASCAR ride, Leffler had been racing dirt car events most of this year, including the 410 Sprint Car race Wednesday that promised a $7,000 prize to the winner at the 0.625-mile, high-banked dirt oval.
On Sunday, Leffler finished last at Pocono in his lone NASCAR Sprint Cup start of the year.
He also made three IndyCar Series starts, finishing 17th in the 2000 Indianapolis 500.
Copyright 2013 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.