The state of South Carolina may sound like an unusual place to find a budding sprint car racer, but that’s where 16-year-old Connor Leoffler currently calls home.
The Myrtle Beach resident has had an impressive start to a young sprint car career that began just three seasons ago at the age of 13.
Leoffler, a second-generation driver, began his racing career racing karts at the age of 10. After 111 feature victories, including the 2017 King of Concrete indoor event in Greensboro, N.C., Leoffler was ready for a new challenge.
A quick stint in micro-sprints and D2 midgets saw Leoffler collect five feature victories. His father Layne felt he was ready for a bigger challenge and moved him up to 305 sprints in 2018 at the age of 13.
“I think we won about five features in the micros,” Leoffler explained. “We didn’t run them that long before we moved up to the 305s.”
Due to his young age, there were some tracks at which he would not be allowed to compete. Nonetheless, the rookie was competitive right out of the gate.
He competed in seven winged events and two non-winged events that first season. In the final event of 2018, Leoffler was running second in a Southeastern Sprint Car Series non-winged feature event at Sylvania, Ga. The rookie was holding his own despite the fact he was piloting a 305 in a field of 410s. His night came to an end after he was involved in an accident while racing with the third-place runner.
The 2019 season saw Leoffler competing regularly without the wing in the USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series. The races in this series were held in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, but the team still made the trek north religiously each weekend to compete. Leoffler was named the series rookie-of-the-year with five top-10 finishes.
Leoffler’s finest moment of 2019 may have occurred with a sweep of the Southeastern series non-winged sprint car and D2 midget events during the Gator Nationals at Milton, Fla.
Last year was Leoffler’s breakout season. He picked up three feature victories with the USCS sprint cars, including his first-ever sprint car feature win on August 28 at Dothan Raceland in Cottonwood, Ala. He captured the USCS Southern Thunder Tour regional series championship and was also the 2020 USCS National Rookie of the Year.
Father Layne, a former dirt late model racer, insists he had no worries about starting his son out in sprint cars at the age of 13.
“He started young, but luckily we’ve been pretty good with a lot of the promoters,” Layne Leoffler shared. “They were OK with him running adult classes when he was 11 or 12 years old. It was a little harder for us to do it when we did, only two years ago, with the age. I think it’s become a lot more acceptable now on a case-by-case basis. I don’t think every 12-year-old should be in a sprint car. If they have the ability, I don’t have a problem with it, although some people do.
“When we transitioned to the USAC Eastern deal, Curt Michaels owns that. He had seen us run some URC races already. They were comfortable with him. The one thing with Connor, he does have the respect of the other drivers. He’s pretty smooth, and not as aggressive as far as wrecking people and tearing stuff up. He’s gained a lot of respect through that.”
DOB: – November 1, 2004
HOMETOWN: – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
SERIES: – USCS, URC
SPONSORS: – Collision Consultants of Florida, MOSS Racing Engines, Simpson Racing Products, Schaeffer Racing Oil, Lane Automotive
Although Leoffler’s career has included both winged and non-winged racing to date, the focus will now be on winged racing only.
“The only thing we’re gonna do for points this year is with URC,” explained Layne Leoffler. “We’re gonna bounce around with the 410 stuff. We’re going to go to some big races with the 360s, [do] some ASCS stuff like the Short Track Nationals again this year. But, mostly trying to hit some 410 stuff.
“We’re trying to focus just on wing stuff. I’m a firm believer that it’s better to run anything you can. But I do believe you pick up some bad habits going back to a wingless car. Connor’s goal is to eventually become a World of Outlaws driver, so we’re putting our whole focus on winged racing this season.
“We’re a long way from everywhere. The closest race for us is about five hours. Pennsylvania is about eight hours. But that’s the capitol of winged racing and that’s where we’re gonna race all year,” Layne concluded.
“We’re definitely gonna try and pick up a few 410 wins this year, if not one, and hope for some good finishes,” added Connor Leoffler. “We’re gonna run the whole URC deal for points. We’re gonna try and run 25 410 shows and 50 360 shows.
“I’m just putting my focus on winged racing this year and see what we can do.”