INAUGURAL LEFFLER AWARD GOES TO DAVE DARLAND
The inaugural presentation of the brand-new USAC “Jason Leffler Award” highlighted last Friday night’s USAC “Night of Champions” National Awards Dinner in Indianapolis, Ind. and winner Dave Darland was the surprise and deserving recipient.
Darland, fondly referred to as “The People’s Champion.” has competed in USAC racing for the past quarter-century and earned numerous competition awards and championships. A model of integrity who has truly earned the respect of the entire motorsports fraternity, is genuinely appreciative of being the award’s first recipient, having known and befriended Leffler during his USAC racing career.
Leffler, who captured USAC National championships in the Silver Crown Series (1998) and the Midget Series (1997-98-99), was fatally injured in a racing accident in New Jersey in June. The award, which will become an annual fixture at the USAC “Night of Champions,” is presented “in recognition of Jason’s intense appreciation of the sport’s history reflected in his professionalism and outstanding representation as an ambassador of the United States Auto Club, exhibiting the same standard of ideals upheld by the late Jason Leffler during his USAC racing career.”
Darland is one of only five drivers to have earned the distinction as a USAC “Triple Crown Champion.” The others, Tony Stewart, J.J. Yeley, Pancho Carter and Jerry Coons Jr., also earned championships in all three of USAC’s National series during the careers.
The 1997 Silver Crown Champ, 1999 Sprint Car Champ and 2001-02 Midget king was also USAC’s inaugural “Super License” champion in 1999, earning more National points than any other driver. Winner of the “Jimmy Caruthers Award” for similar personal attributes in 2003, he now ranks fourth all-time in terms of USAC National feature wins with 90, including 47 in the Sprint cars, which ranks second behind Tom Bigelow’s 52. He also now has an all-time record of 551 USAC Sprint car starts, which have produced 142 podium finishes.