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.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

NBCSN

“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).