As New Jersey State Police continue to investigate the death of Jason Leffler, after a crash at in a heat race for the “Night of Wings” event at Bridgeport Speedway, many race fans and drivers all across the nation are trying to come to grips with why such a young, positive driver had to be taken from this world?
While this motorsports fan and writer is still in shock, I can’t help but wonder how will the death of this nationally known NASCAR driver change the world of racing? We all know that sports in general can be dangerous, with racing being one of the more risky.
Many NASCAR fans were reminded of this danger following the deaths of both Adam Petty (2000) and Dale Earnhardt (2001). Following these awful deaths, NASCAR finally decided that it was time to make significant safety improvements, including the now required HANS Device and safer barriers installed at many popular tracks.
As time has progressed, NASCAR has continued to do what it can to keep drivers safe. As a result, drivers like Michael McDowell, who survived a horrendous crash during Sprint Cup qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway in 2008, and Denny Hamlin, who has continued to recover from a severe back injury after a hard crash at Auto Club Speedway earlier this season, are with us today.
Unfortunately, the same safety initiatives are not always available in many small track series like the one that took the life of LEFTurn last night. In fact, the type of car that Leffler lost his life in also claimed the life of a 22-year-old driver three weeks ago in a crash at Bloomington Speedway, in Monroe County, Indiana. Two fans were also killed in March after a Sprint car hit two tractor tires, sending it airborne and into the path of these fans. In 2012, a 20-year-old driver also died when his sprint car hit the wall at Calistoga Speedway in Napa County, California.
NASCAR Nationwide rookie driver, Kyle Larson has also come face to face with the dangers of this form of racing following an end over end crash in the USAC Sprint Feature at the 2012 Four Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway. While Larson was able to climb out of his crumbled car, he was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.
With mourning continuing for another talented life taken too soon, I hope those that continue to climb into these machines remember that there are serious risks associated. We fans should also remember to give respect to those who risk their safety to entertain us.
- Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports