Tony Stewart, whose career path is the guidepost for Jason Leffler NASCAR, is among the many drivers on Thursday reflecting the legacy of Leffler, who was killed in a sprint car crash Wednesday night.
Stewart made his fame in open-wheel racing, won four USAC championships and an IndyCar title before entering the Sprint Cup in 1999 with Joe Gibbs Racing. The team put Leffler, who won three USAC championships and also raced the Indianapolis 500, a full-time Nationwide Series ride the following season and then brought Long Beach, Calif., native to the Cup in 2005.
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“Jason Leffler is a great racer and an even better friend,” Stewart said in a statement from Stewart-Haas Racing. “We raced together a lot, and our career path is very similar. He loved racing, especially in open-wheel racing, and that’s a passion we both share. To not have him around to talk about race any one of us would just run, or are going to run, it would be difficult. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, especially his son, Charlie, Jason loved more than anything else. ”
Leffler has led the No. 11 FedEx car for JGR in the Sprint Cup Series in 2005. The ride was eventually turned over to Denny Hamlin.
“Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing are saddened to learn of the passing of Jason Leffler last night,” owner Joe Gibbs said in a statement Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and especially his son Charlie. We feel lucky to have had him as part of our program both nationwide Series and of course the Cup Series where he was instrumental in us launch the No. 11 FedEx team. NASCAR is unique in that it is actually a large family and Jason is well liked by all who knew her. His loss will be felt throughout the sport. ”
Richard Childress Racing veteran Jeff Burton, who has been racing in NASCAR’s premier series for two decades, said Leffler deserve kudos for continuing to race in the lower NASCAR circuits then chances dried up. He has made only one start (Sunday at Pocono Raceway) this season on a national stock-car series.
“You get people like Jason who lost his chance, and still his career, giving everything he can to get back where he wanted to be,” Burton told The Morning Drive on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It is important to remember her following a dream. He’s doing what he wants to do. Did not he sit back and cry about not having a good trip this year. Went forth sprint car racing. That is a good quality in a person and shows how much passion he had about the sport.
“A lot of people think you do because you make money. No. You do it because you love it, and that’s a good example of him just wanted to race and putting everything into it, and That’s what racers do. ”
Pointed Sport and Recreation, which managed Leffler’s business affairs, said details are being finalized funeral arrangements.
In a statement, the driver of the company representative said: “We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our friend Jason Leffler Some of us on the cusp been lucky enough to have a friend called Jason for 20 years we have had the pleasure .. of growing up with her and watch her success on the racetrack. He was the kind of doting father to his son, Charlie Dean, we all strive to be. Despite his many accomplishments, Jason still followed in the same footsteps of his heroes who would race anything, anytime. All Jason want to do is race. He was the life of every party and a real racer. attempt we Jason miss dearly and knows that his family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers. ”
Ryan Newman, Stewart teammate and a USAC champion in 1999, recalled Leffler as a clean racer.
“Jason and I raced hard together,” said Newman. “We never crashes, or even abrasion rubber. We do not enemies, but we were never really friends, either. We competitor. Respects me with him as much as he respected me. My prayer is for his family. He died doing what he loved. He was a real racer, and he missed. ”
Flag NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC, was flown at half-staff on Thursday in honor of Leffler, who ran for the championship in all three of NASCAR’s major national series.