IRL: Jason Leffler Hones Skills at Skip Barber School

Leffler Takes Skip Barber Three Day Racing School Two-time United States Auto Club National Midget champion and defending Silver Crown sprint car champion Jason Leffler hopes to follow in the footsteps of former USAC champ Jeff Gordon. So it was...

Leffler Takes Skip Barber Three Day Racing School

Two-time United States Auto Club National Midget champion and defending Silver Crown sprint car champion Jason Leffler hopes to follow in the footsteps of former USAC champ Jeff Gordon. So it was only natural that Leffler spend some time at the Skip Barber Racing School, the same school that helped train the three-time Winston Cup champion.

Leffler, the test driver for the Treadway Indy Racing League team of Sam Schmidt and Arie Luyendyk, found time during a break in his winter schedule to complete a Skip Barber Three Day Racing School at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. The eight-turn road course circuit at Sebring and the unique demands of the 130-horsepower Formula Dodge cars was a change of pace for the 23-year old Leffler, who is acknowledged as a rising star in the high-horsepower world of short ovals.

"I had a great time down there and I learned a lot. I don't do much road racing and the instructors were all very helpful," Leffler said.

The Skip Barber experience was not the first time on a road course for Leffler. But on this occasion, he had time to concentrate on precise road racing techniques such as double clutching, trail braking and heel-and-toe footwork in a car that operates without the artificial aid of high-downforce aerodynamics.

"In the midgets, we don't shift at all, we have an in/out box," Leffler said. "And you're either on the gas or off. Braking... road racing was just a totally different experience."

This year, Leffler has his sights set on the IRL. He has been selected as the test driver for the Treadway Racing and his quick test times earned him a start for the first race of the season at Walt Disney World Speedway. He is hoping to parlay that promise into a full-season deal, including a fulfillment of his dream to run in the Indy 500. Leffler has completed the primary part of his rookie orientation program at the Brickyard, and hopes to qualify for the race this year. The Skip Barber Racing School has trained one-third of the Indy 500 drivers in the past decade.

"We did a simulated rookie test and we passed that. I'll have to go through the final step (10 laps averaging between 200-205 mph). The fastest we've gone testing there is 222 mph," Leffler said. "Everything happens so fast there...going down the front straightaway it really narrows up into turn one. It looks like you're driving into the wall - you can't even see the turn!

"It's very important to keep the momentum going. It would be nice to find something full time whether it's the IRL, or something else," Leffler said. "We'll have to see. It really doesn't matter to me as long as I get with a top-flight team like Treadway."

Leffler began the defense of his USAC titles with a win in the Copper Classic Midget race and a third-place finish in the first Silver Crown race at Phoenix International Raceway. He made a big splash in the USAC Silver Crown circuit last year, when he parlayed a two-race trial into the series championship, including a win in the DuPont 100 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. He fought off a tight field to claim the title in which a series-high 11 different drivers were race winners, including Indy Racing League notables Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley. Leffler also chalked up four feature wins and 10 pole positions in the National Midgets class to post a 959-948 points win over Jay Drake for his second consecutive championship in that class.

Regardless of the direction his career takes him - be it ovals or the mixed road/oval format of CART Champ Cars, Leffler figures that his three-day experience at the Skip Barber Racing School will serve him well in the future.

"It's just better to try and do everything, and be a more well-rounded driver," Leffler said.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , USAC
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Arie Luyendyk , J.J. Yeley , Skip Barber , Jay Drake