By now, the news of Jason Leffler's fatal accident on Wednesday evening at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey has spread far and wide.
Leffler was competing in Tom Buch's sprint car in the show at Bridgeport when the accident occurred.
Leffler hailed from Long Beach, Calif., but this season he had made the local racing circuit his home. Racing in the area with a winged sprint car was one of the few dreams Leffler had not yet realized in his stellar racing career.
He had moved up through the ranks in racing, winning regularly with the USAC wingless midgets and sprint cars. From there, he moved to NASCAR and raced in all three of its major series, winning twice on the Grand National circuit, and once with the Truck series. He had also made a number of starts in the Cup series, and also started the Indy 500 during his career.
When he didn't get a competitive ride in NASCAR for this season, he joined up with Buch to race the winged sprint cars. He had been a regular on the local circuit for most of this season, only venturing away for a few shows outside the area. Last Sunday, he had a ride for the NASCAR Cup series race at Pocono.
But it was on the local circuit where he was racing every week this season, learning the ropes in a different type of car from those he had driven in the past.
Leffler also made a bunch of new friends while racing in the area. While I can't say that he and I became close friends, he sure impressed me with his friendly personality. From the first time we met, back in March, he always greeted me by name, and we had several conversations during the handful of months he competed here in the area.
A driver with the credentials that Leffler possessed could certainly have had a different attitude about racing on a local weekly circuit, but he didn't. Jason Leffler loved racing sprint cars in this area. I'll never forget a brief chat at Williams Grove a week after he had made his first start at Lincoln.
His team had gone to Lincoln that week after Port Royal, where Buch has traditionally fielded his cars, canceled because of wet grounds. Leffler told me that night at the Grove that he "really had a lot of fun" the week before at Lincoln and he would be back.
His time in Buch's race car was way too short, and he was just beginning to learn the way to race the winged sprint cars. His best finish on the local circuit was a fifth-place run at Susquehanna. He also had top-10 runs at Williams Grove and Lincoln during his brief time with us.
I didn't make it to the race at Bridgeport, so I don't have any first-hand knowledge of the accident that took Leffler's life. Speculation is that a front suspension piece failed on his car, which caused the car to veer into the guard rail.
Whatever really did happen, we've all lost a friend, and a great racer.
Bryan Householder covers dirt-track racing for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.