Former NASCAR champ speaks out about driver’s death in track wre - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Former NASCAR champ speaks out about driver’s death in track wreck

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HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) -

A former NASCAR champion is speaking out after his friend and fellow driver died during a race in New Jersey on Wednesday night.

Jason "LefTurn" Leffler, based in Huntersville, died in a wreck during a heat race at a dirt car event at Bridgeport Speedway.

The 37-year-old Leffler was a two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Randy LaJoie, a two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion, says Leffler was a friend and a customer.

"It's tough to know that we're not going to see Jason's face anymore," he told WBTV on Thursday. "He came in here probably once a month doing odds and ends with his short track stuff, just a good kid, and it's sad that his son is going to grow up without a dad."

LaJoie says he first met Leffler more than 15 years ago.

"He was a winner and he was a good, fun kid," LaJoie said. "You didn't know where his hair was going. Sometimes it was going straight to the sky, looked like Don King, you know, he was not a big stature. He was a little kid, he looked like a horse jockey, and that's something that you know, he was fun to pick on because he was just a whole lot littler than everybody else."

Randy LaJoie does a lot of work with driver safety in racing.

"Anytime there is a death in auto racing, I try to find out why - because one death is one too many," he said. "NASCAR won't let you on a racetrack anymore in the touring series without having all of your proper equipment, but it doesn't trickle down to the short tracks enough."

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.

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.

"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."

LaJoie says its sad that drivers and family still have to go to funerals because of racing.

"But when you look at this, we're kind of gladiators," he said. "Race car drivers are gladiators. That's why people go up in the stands to watch."

"In his heart [Jason] was a racer, at the end of the day he wanted to race anything, anytime, go to Indy, go to Daytona, I mean he competed on the big stage," LaJoie continued. "You've got to give him that, he competed."

Originally 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.

"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."

Leffler leaves behind a young son, Charlie Dean.

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