Amy Henderson · Wednesday May 15, 2013
Landon Cassill may be just 23 years old, but he’s already gaining a reputation in the NASCAR garage for being a talented driver that a building team can count on for his feedback and ability behind the wheel. This season, that led Cassill to second-year team Circle Sport, a single-car effort owned by NASCAR veteran Joe Falk, and Cassill is already making an impact as the team is finishing strong among their peers and improving steadily. Cassill sat down on Saturday afternoon at Darlington before he strapped in for the Bojangles’ Southern 500, and they talked about his team, his life as a newlywed, how he gives back to the community, and much more>
Amy Henderson, Frontstretch.com: We talked a few weeks ago at Martinsville about your team, and how you sometimes run used parts to save money. Over the last few weeks, you have shown vast improvement—you had a lead-lap finish at Richmond, a top-25 at Talladega—what do you attribute that to?
Landon Cassill: For us, it was really just getting into the swing of the season and getting our rhythm, learning our cars a little bit better. Also, Richmond is a really good track for me. I’ve run well there in the past—this might be my third consecutive lead lap finish there; I ran top 20 there in the Burger King car, ran well both races. So to run lead lap again—we just run good at Richmond. Then at Talladega, it’s a survival race and we did a good job and reached our goals there. We know we can improve. We didn’t have a superspeedway car. We used my Charlotte car at Talladega. So, it wasn’t as fast and it was hard to draft with it, but we accomplished our goals. You know, we’ve just got to keep working on these things and get to know our cars better.
Henderson: You’ve finished ahead of some teams that have more money and equipment recently. What’s your secret?
Cassill: You’ll have that from time to time; it’s just part of racing. Those teams struggle too, so I would like to say that on our good days we can beat some of them on a bad day. There are some of those big teams that on our best day, we can’t beat them on a bad day, like obviously, the 48—but some other teams that have better equipment maybe than they do a driver, sometimes we can go out and outrace them on a good day.
Henderson: You’ve gotten a bit of a reputation as a go-to kind of guy for these smaller, building organizations—you were with Germain and Joe Falk a couple of years ago, BK last year, you’ve come over to Circle Sport this year—what makes you so attractive as that guy?
Cassill: Hopefully it’s because I’m good! I can be the go-to guy for any team. I’m enjoying where I’m at right now with Circle Sport and I hope that we can build together. I hope they see value in having me as a driver. I feel like I have a feel for what the cars need and an ability to find what the cars need, so I hope that people see that and that if they give me and my team and my crew the right resources that we can improve our cars.
Henderson: As a driver, you have been with a lot of different teams, including Hendrick Motorsports as a development driver. Has driving for the smaller teams helped you in the long run?
Cassill: It has helped me in the long run. I’ve learned a lot about this sport and how it operates. I’m at a young age, and I see a lot of things that I didn’t know back when I was 18 or 19 years old. I’m still learning at such a young age—I’m only 23, and I’m not learning these things at the age that David Gilliland or David Ragan are learning them. I’m learning at a younger age. I’m developing a real appreciation for what I’m doing right now. I like how my career is going, as long as it pays off in the long run.
Henderson: Talk about some of those things that you have learned along the way. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in the past few years?
Cassill: I think I can look back on some things and I see where I made my job an awful lot harder than it is in some aspects. I’ve also learned how to have the right attitude for the situation I’m in, and how to understand the situation I’m in—and that depends on every situation.
Henderson: How hard is it when you’re struggling a little bit to keep a positive attitude?
CASSILL: It’s very hard. It depends on the pressure on you and things like that, and at this level of racing there’s always a lot of pressure on you. It is hard, but when you know you have people behind you, it makes it a lot easier to keep a positive attitude.
Henderson: You came over to Circle Sport a little late in the game for 2013. This is a small second-year team who started and parked a lot last year but are running full races this year. What are some realistic goals for this year, for this team?
Casill: Our goals right now are to continue to finish races. Tonight, I honestly don’t know if we’re going to be able to finish the race. It might be one of those weeks where we have to start and park some this year. (Note: Cassill and the No. 33 were able to go the distance at Darlington) I think our goal is to continue to finish races, because that’s the only way to improve. Parking in the middle of the race might be a necessity sometimes, but it’s hard to improve doing that. I do understand when we do have to park, but it’s something that all of us are trying not to do.
Henderson: What’s in your head when you get that call to come in? You know you have to do it, but…
Cassill: You just already know. You keep moving on.
Henderson: You did double duty at Darlington, racing the No. 4 car in the Nationwide Series as well. Is there anything with these cars anymore that carried over, other than racing lines and things like that?
Cassill: In driving and how you race probably more so than in the cars themselves, I think. The Cup cars are pretty unique right now with the rear end housing and the side skirts and things like that. We’re setting them up quite a bit differently from the Nationwide cars.
Henderson: Do you have more Nationwide races planned?
Cassill: Yes. I’m going to run pretty much all the companion races for Johnny Davis. I’m pretty excited about that; I like those guys! I’m enjoying that. It’s pretty similar to what I’m doing over here, so I can carry the same mindset.
Henderson: Do you have any kind of a race day routine?
Cassill: Yeah. Just moving about the day is pretty routine for me. NASCAR keeps the schedules pretty consistent, so it allows me to have a routine. We’re creatures of habit. I do have routines. Not as much superstitions or anything, just a routine.
Henderson: You got married in the offseason. How does that change you as a driver?
Cassill: It probably helps me look at the big picture more. My wife and I just bought a house together, and we’re financially trying to build a plan that will allow us to pay our house off in five years, so I think maybe my long-term visions of life in general might trickle over into racing. Which is probably good—I plan to be here for the long term!
Henderson: What is fun these days outside of racing?
Cassill: I golf. That’s what I like to spend my time doing when I have some spare time. I have a lot of friends in that industry. One of my best friends is a professional golfer. We’re at similar places in our careers, so we help motivate each other and we spend a lot of time together. I volunteered for the First Tee in Charlotte and I serve on their Board of Directors. First Tee is for kids from the age of 3-18, and it’s a great program that teaches them the game itself, but not just the game. It teaches them the character behind it. Golfing has done a lot for me personally, and it’s great to be able to give back in my free time.
Henderson: You mentioned you have a friend who’s a golf pro. How important is it to have friends who understand the pressure and mindset of being a professional athlete?
Cassill: It is important; it helps. Corey and I know what each other is going through. We know how to communicate with each other because of what we’re going through. It’s very interesting—there’s an interesting dynamic there.
Henderson: Who are your best friends in the NASCAR garage?
Cassill: Usually the people on my team I stay the closest with. My wife and I live in Charlotte; we don’t live on the lake or anything. Once I leave the racetrack, we pretty much do our own thing. There’s a lot of good people in this garage, though, that I’ve made friends with.
Henderson: *There are tons of fans walking around out here today—what’s the strangest request you’ve ever had from a fan?
Cassill: I had a fan name their newborn baby after me, which was pretty cool. I love the fans. I’ve had so many great experiences with them; I really enjoy it. One thing that’s amazing with our sport is the things we can do with our fans. I actually have fans that I’ve developed friendships with—I can’t tell you how many people that I communicate with, not just on Twitter, but on my cell phone. There’s a handful of fans that I’ve given my phone number to because they’re good people and I made friends with them. They like to talk about racing and so do I! There are some fans out there who get some major inside information from me because we’ve developed a friendship.
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