BRIDGEPORT, N.J. (AP) - NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died after an accident Wednesday night in a heat race at a dirt car event at Bridgeport Speedway.

The 37-year-old Leffler, a two-time winner on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, was pronounced dead shortly after 9 p.m., New Jersey State Police said.

"NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening," NASCAR said in a statement. "For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed."

After losing his NASCAR ride, Leffler had been racing dirt car events most of this year, including the 410 Sprint Car race Wednesday that promised a $7,000 prize to the winner at the 0.625-mile, high-banked dirt oval. On Sunday, Leffler finished last at Pocono in his lone NASCAR Sprint Cup start of the year.

From Long Beach, Calif., Leffler made 423 starts in NASCAR's three national series, but won just the two Nationwide races and one Truck Series event in a career that began in 1999. He also made three IndyCar Series starts, finishing 17th in the 2000 Indianapolis 500.

Leffler's last full NASCAR season was 2011, when he ran the entire Nationwide schedule for Turner Motorsports. He finished sixth in the standings that season and hadn't had a steady NASCAR ride since.

Although he never made it at the Sprint Cup Series level, Leffler ran almost the entire 2001 season for Chip Ganassi Racing and ran 19 races in 2005 for Joe Gibbs Racing in the car now driven by Denny Hamlin.

Leffler is survived by 5-year-old son Charlie Dean.

"Really sad for Jason Leffler and his family," NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski said on Twitter. "Thinking about his little boy."

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