Jason Leffler won Busch race here in June '04
By Andy Reed
Jason Leffler, who won the June 2004 Busch Series race at Nashville Superspeedway, was killed Wednesday night while competing in a sprint car race in Bridgeport, N.J.
The early-morning victory in the Federated Auto Parts 300 was the first of his two in what is now called the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Leffler, who was 37, competed in most of the 21 Busch/Nationwide races held at the Superspeedway from 2001-11. He also ran in a handful of Truck Series races on the Gladeville track during the decade.
His win came after Kyle Busch, running his first full NASCAR schedule, ran out of gas while leading with four laps remaining in the 225-lapper. Leffler, whose team was concerned about his own fuel, inherited the lead and coasted to victory in a race which ended at 12:38 a.m. on a Sunday morning after lightning and rain caused it to be red-flagged for nearly three hours. The race ended under caution, enabling Leffler, who started second, to follow the pace car across the finish line.
"The first thing when I saw Busch in the grass, I just backed down on the gas and tried to conserve gas," Leffler told reporters in the media center during the wee hours of June 13, 2004. "I was a little worried there. I asked the guys if it was too late to become religious and start praying. But everything worked out."
Leffler went on to say, "I've never had a crew chief tell me you're going too fast… [Crew chief] Booty [Barker] just said start conserving fuel.
"I just saw [Busch] sitting in the grass. I didn't know what happened. Booty said 'keep going, keep going, you're going to be the leader'. I guess he ran out of gas trying to get on Pit Road. It's a shame for him."
Busch, who has since become NASCAR's resident villain and who's most infamous moment at the Gladeville track came when he smashed the Sam Bass-designed Gibson Guitar following his victory in the June 2009 race, was gracious to Leffler.
"It was just my fault," Busch said. "I ran out of gas.
"It was just a matter of time until Jason Leffler to to Victory Lane."
Lebanon Democrat outdoor/racing columnist Larry Woody remembered Leffler as a young man who worked hard to make his way in NASCAR.
"He always seemed to be a nice guy, low key, polite," Woody said Thursday. "I didn't know him that well, but when his name came up it was always in a positive light. I never heard anybody say anything negative about him.
"He flew under the radar and didn't make waves."