Fantasy NASCAR: Tragedy strikes at dirt track
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 13, 2013 11:04PM
FILE - This July 6, 2007 file photo shows NASCAR Busch series driver Jason Leffler with the Busch Pole Award after he won the pole in qualifying for the Winn Dixie 250 auto race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. Leffler died after an accident in a heat race at a dirt car event at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J., Wednesday night, June 12, 2013, New Jersey State Police said. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay, File)
top 10 readers
Nathaniel Hollowell 199
Phyllis Curtis 199
Donna Conley 196
Gary Ison 194
Allen Curtis 194
Doug Allison 194
Michael Rich 191
John Stoddard 190
Chuck Green Jr. 190
Willie Wireman 189
John Daras Sr. 189
Steve T. Gorches picks — POCONO: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin. Total points: 186; MICHIGAN: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson
The annual Post-Tribune Fantasy NASCAR contest has returned for a sixth season. Each week readers pick five drivers and points are based on the same system NASCAR uses in its standings. Lineup entries can be submitted via email (email@example.com) or phone (219-314-3797). Entries can also be texted to that cell number. No faxes, please. With your entries, please include your name, hometown and a contact number. First and second place each week will be entered into a drawing in July for tickets to the Brickyard 400.
Updated: July 16, 2013 6:24AM
This is supposed to be an uplifting, positive column on the Post-Tribune’s sixth annual Fantasy NASCAR contest, but death has a way of ruining that positivity.
In recent years the accidents in NASCAR races have become more dangerous, but the safety measures have held up nicely to prevent serious injuries. In fact, Denny Hamlin’s compression fracture earlier this season was one of the most critical in recent memory. Even Juan Pablo Montoya survived driving his car into the back of a drier truck last year at the Daytona 500, and setting the track on fire.
But on Wednesday night, two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series winner Jason Leffler died during a race. It wasn’t in a NASCAR-sanctioned race, but in a dirt track event at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J.
The 37-year-old was involved in an accident in a heat race in the 410 sprints division on the 0.625-mile track.
Leffler was one of the most versatile drivers in NASCAR. He’s won twice in the Nationwide Series, his last coming in 2007 at Indianapolis’ Raceway Park as part of the Brickyard 400 weekend.
He had 73 career Sprint Cup starts with a top finish of 10th in the 2001 season finale. Leffler also finished 17th in the 2000 Indianapolis 500, won four United States Auto Club championships and was inducted into the National Midget Racing Hall of Fame in 2003.
The saddest part is that he was married with a 5-year-old son.
I appreciate top drivers going back to their roots and driving on tracks back home or similar to their younger days. Tony Stewart does it occasionally. But it’s dangerous because those cars at smaller neighborhood tracks — like Illiana Speedway — don’t have the safety measures of NASCAR. This isn’t like Dan Wheldon two years ago when he was involved in a 15-car crash at Las Vegas Speedway. Leffler didn’t need to be driving on some dirt car in the middle of the week. He should be getting ready for another NASCAR race after he finished last in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono.
Enough sadness. Jimmie Johnson won again at Pocono, and my losing streak is over after I chose him in my five drivers. Most of our readers picked him, but no one broke 200 points due to a handful of frequently-picked drivers struggling — Kasey Kahne finished 36th and Matt Kenseth was 25th.
A pair of readers barely missed 200 to tie for the top spot and earn entries into next month’s drawing. Both Nathaniel Hollowell of Gary and Phyllis Curtis of DeMotte had 199 points with the combination of Johnson, Stewart (fourth), Jeff Gordon (12th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (third) and Kyle Busch (sixth). It’s the second time Hollowell has won this season with his other win coming in the first week. And coincidentally, Hollowell and Curtis were tied last week in fourth place.
Speaking of Junior, he’d be a good choice this week with the Sprint Cup Series heading to Michigan. That’s where he won last year to break a long winless streak. And his previous victory was also at Michigan, so you know he likes that track.