Drivers remember and honor Leffler at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MI - JUNE 14:  A decal in tribute to Jason Leffler is displayed on the #60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Travis Pastrana during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, MI – JUNE 14: A decal in tribute to Jason Leffler is displayed on the #60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Travis Pastrana during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, 2013 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, Mich. — The death of Jason Leffler was on the minds of several Sprint Cup drivers when they arrived at Michigan International Speedway on Friday.

Leffler, who made 73 Sprint Cup starts, was killed Wednesday after a violent crash during a sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway, a dirt track in Swedesboro, N.J. He was 37. An autopsy found he died of blunt force neck trauma after he hit a wall.

Tony Stewart, who roomed with Leffler years ago, remembered a friend.

“I’ve known him a long time and we grew up racing together,” he said. “I knew him as a roommate and teammate. I know he loved nothing more than being behind the wheel of a race car.

“His son, Charlie, that’s the one we’re thinking about the most right now.”

A Long Beach, Calif., native, Leffler completed just eight laps in his final Sprint Cup start last weekend at Pocono. He also won a pair of Nationwide Series races and once in the Camping World Truck Series.

He was reportedly wearing a head and neck safety device on Wednesday.

“I was shocked to hear what happened,” Stewart added. “It’s just a reminder of how dangerous our sport is but we’ve had a lot of safety innovations and it’s proof that they’ll never get to the stage where anybody is totally immune from getting hurt in a race car.”

Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski paid tribute to Leffler, whom he often raced against in the Nationwide Series, by adding the late driver’s Twitter handle to the rear of his No. 2 Ford.

A decal reading “LEFturn” will be affixed to both NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide cars this weekend at Michigan.

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