Tony Stewart and Jason Leffler made their way into NASCAR with a similar career trajectory that ultimately made the two competitors very close friends.
On Wednesday night, that friendship came to an end when Leffler was killed in a horrifying and sad Sprint Car crash.
The parallels between the two men really shed light on their working relationship. Stewart won four USAC championships and an IndyCar title before entering the SprintCup. Jason Leffler won three USAC championships and also raced in the Indianapolis 500.
After his friend passed away on Wednesday, Tony Stewart released the following statement:
“Jason Leffler was a great racer and an even better friend. We raced together a lot, and our career paths were very similar. He loved racing, especially open-wheel racing, and that’s a passion we both share. To not have him around to talk about whatever race one of us had just run, or were going to run, will be hard. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, especially his son, Charlie, who Jason loved more than anything.”
Tony Stewart’s teammate, Ryan Newman, also a USAC champion, says Jason Leffler was a fair driver and a good friend despite competing against one another on the racetrack:
“Jason and I raced hard together. We never crashed, or even rubbed wheels. We weren’t enemies, but we were never really friends, either. We were competitors. I respected him as much as he respected me. My prayers are for his family. He died doing what he loved. He was a real racer, and he will be missed.”
Jason Leffler will be missed and continues to be celebrated by race fans and the very men and women he competed against on a weekly basis. With his early career trajectory matching that of Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, it’s sad to think what may have still come for the 37-year-old NASCAR driver.