September 16, 1975 - June 12, 2013
Leffler died from injuries sustained in a 410 sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway in Bridgeport, New Jersey. Running second with a few laps left, his car suffered a front suspension failure, causing it to crash into a wall and flip several times.
Leffler was knocked unconscious instantly, and paramedics said he was motionless. When it was found that Leffler was not breathing, the rest of the race was cancelled and victory lane ceremonies did not take place. He was airlifted by helicopter to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he was pronounced dead at 9 PM, 30 minutes after the wreck. EDT. An autopsy report stated that the cause of death was a severe blunt force neck and backbone injury.
After his death, many drivers and racing associations such as NASCAR and IndyCar made statements on the death and gave their condolences. NASCAR drivers competing in the 2013 Quicken Loans 400 had special stickers placed on their cars in honor of Leffler. Denny Hamlin, who replaced Leffler in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota in late 2005 had his car repainted to resemble Leffler's variation.
Born in Long Beach, California, Leffler began his career racing midget cars in the USAC series, where he won three consecutive midget championships from 1997 and 1999, as well as the Silver Crown series championship in 1998. He was the third driver to win three consecutive midget car championships. He won the Hut Hundred and Belleville Nationals in 1997, and the Turkey Night Grand Prix and Copper Classic in 1999. He won his second Turkey Night Grand Prix in 2005.
Roger Penske met Leffler at the 1998 Hut 100. Leffler's success also caught the attention of Joe Gibbs Racing, a team which had previously signed Tony Stewart from the USAC ranks. Leffler joined the team in 1999 and made four starts in the Busch Series during the season with moderate success. At the same time, he also started a race in the Indy Racing League at Walt Disney World Speedway in the No. 5 Treadway Racing machine, but finished last after crashing early in the race.
Leffler made his first, and only, start in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. This effort was put forth by Treadway Racing with backing from Roger Penske's United Auto group. Leffler qualified in the 17th position, which was also where he finished; three laps behind race winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
During the 2000 season, Leffler drove full-time for the No. 18 MBNA sponsored Busch team. He finished twentieth in the championship and earned three pole positions during the year and finished second at Phoenix. He also made two IRL starts, among them a start for Treadway in the Indianapolis 500 where he started and finished seventeenth. After that season, he moved up to the Winston Cup Series to drive the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge Intrepid in Winston Cup, which was sponsored by Cingular Wireless. During his inaugural Cup season, he won the pole at the inaugural race at Kansas Speedway, but had only one top ten finish and four failures to qualify. After his 37th-place finish in the championship, Ganassi replaced him with Jimmy Spencer for the 2002 season.
Jason would run a total of 73 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races over a 9 year career, 294 races during a 12 year NASCAR Nationwide Series career and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career of 56 races over a 7 year period.
Leffler was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. He had 18 national championship midget car wins at that time.