ANDERSON — Jason Leffler came through Anderson periodically in the late 1990s racing at Anderson Speedway in the United States Auto Club National Midget Series.
Leffler was a driver who showed a lot of promise and hope of having success on the big stages of racing, Anderson Speedway president Rick Dawson said.
But after an accident during a heat race in the 410 Sprints division at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J., took his life Wednesday evening, Leffler lost his shot at finally living up to the potential Dawson saw in him.
“We’ve got a couple racers out here now that you just know are going to go somewhere down the road with just the way they carry themselves, the way they perform,” Dawson said. “Jason was one of those.”
Leffler raced alongside the likes of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne during his days competing in Anderson, and Dawson said that at the time, he saw Leffler as the better, more polished driver.
After winning four USAC championships, Leffler was inducted into the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.
He then jumped around on NASCAR’s thee national series, getting a few shots at the Sprint Cup level and winning a Nationwide Series race in 2007, but he returned to the sprint cars as his chance to race as much as he desired.
Yet racing in the sprint cars with an open cockpit and on tracks without the SAFER barriers that have been installed on stock car courses posed an even higher risk to Leffler, one Dawson said is just part of the sport.
“I don’t think it’s going to have any effect because we as track owners and racers and car builders every day strive to make new strides in safety,” Dawson said. “It’s one of those things you know might happen, and when it does, it’s kinda tough to swallow. As long as you know you’ve done everything to prevent it, it’s out of our hands.”