Police investigation: Mechanical failure led to Jason Leffler crash, death

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Following more than a week-long investigation, New Jersey state police said the wreck that claimed the life of NASCAR driver Jason Leffler in a June 12 dirt track race in Bridgeport, N.J., was caused by a mechanical problem.

While the report is not fully completed, several findings have come to light to explain much of the reason why Leffler’s car suddenly went out of control and flipped several times before coming to rest. Leffler was taken to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead less than an hour after the wreck, which occurred shortly after 9 pm ET.

Police believe a torsion stop, which is part of the sprint car’s suspension, somehow broke off and became lodged between a wheel and the steering control system, rendering the car uncontrollable. The car came out of the fourth turn, spun, then hit the outside concrete retaining wall, flipping several times before coming to a rest, as well.

While the report has not determined how fast Leffler was going when the crash occurred, the police report said cars were averaging 135 mph and as high as 150 mph on both straightaways during the course of the race.

The official cause of death, as determined by a local medical examiner, has been ruled blunt-force injuries to Leffler’s neck.

Leffler, 37, was buried Wednesday, one week after the tragedy. He leaves behind a five-year-old son. A trust fund for Leffler’s son has been established by several of Leffler’s fellow NASCAR drivers.

Longtime friend and mentor Tony Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion who also co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing and owns or has partial ownership in several short tracks like the New Jersey facility, said last week in Michigan that the facility was not at fault.

“It was an accident,” Stewart said. “Just like if you go out and there’s a car crash. It’s an accident. Nobody as a track owner wants to go through what happened this week, but it’s not due to a lack of effort on their part to try to make their facilities as safe as possible under the conditions they have.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.