1. Landon Cassill, nice.
Landon Cassill by far. The kid deserves a chance with a larger team. Time and time again, he impresses with his ability to not only compete in a clean fashion, but is able to get the most out of mediocre equipment. If his time with JD Motorsports in the XFINITY Series doesn’t speak measures to what he would be able to do in a better car, what does? –Joseph Wolkin, Assistant Editor
I second Joseph’s choice: Landon Cassill is the best-kept secret in NASCAR. He’s a level-headed young talent who runs well while playing fair. Not only that, but he’s social media savvy and uses such mediums consistently as a way to connect with fans. –Mark Howell, Senior Writer
I’ve said the name for years, Landon Cassill. Cassill has never has the opportunity to shine in some of the top equipment in the sport. The good thing for him is that he is still young. When he was on James Finch’s race team, he drove the hell out of the No. 51, almost always finishing higher than he should have. This year at Bristol he led 22 laps in a Front Row Motorsports car. Impressive. He just needs a chance in a quality ride. –Dustin Albino, Staff Writer
2. McDrivin’ It
I have a few in mind, but Michael McDowell has always hit me as a major underdog. As of late, he’s been bringing home top 20s on a more regular basis, and he contends for the win in nearly every XFINITY start he’s had in strong equipment. I would love to see him be given a better ride in Cup. If that happens, I am convinced that he would advance the team both on and off the track. He has the character of having it tough throughout his career and that always shows on the racetrack. –Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
3. Someone give these guys a job already…
If I were to start a Sprint Cup team tomorrow and I were lucky enough to have a major sponsor who would be willing to go with whoever I wanted as a driver, I would hire and build the team around Brett Moffit. He got shafted badly last season due to Michael Waltrip Racing imploding, but he still had some very promising runs in the No. 55 last year. This season, the only national NASCAR races he has competed in have been six truck races, and he’s been fast more often than not in that truck with three top fives and a surprise win at Michigan. How is he still in the unemployment line? –Michael Finley, Staff Writer
Landon Cassill is the obvious answer due to his talent, strong grip of social media, fitness and marketability. However, if I have unlimited money to throw at any driver, then my dollars are going to Corey LaJoie. Gregg Mixon only had one top 10 as a car owner in the XFINITY Series going into 2016. LaJoie gave him two in consecutive starts, including an incredible sixth-place run at Dover International Speedway.
There’s still a bit of rawness to LaJoie’s driving style, as evident by a couple of crashes, but the good runs indicate a high ceiling and large pool of natural ability for the 25-year-old. Plus, he’s the son of two-time NXS champ Randy LaJoie, a name any of the longtime NASCAR fan should remember. –Aaron Bearden, Assistant Editor
4. With a name like AJ, what did you expect?
I’m on the Landon Cassill train as well but there’s another good one: AJ Allmendinger. AJ has a reputation as a road course guy but he’s got two top-5 and eight top-10 finishes this year. Only one of those was at a road course. He runs well at places like Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. He does a great job on the track and is as friendly and approachable as anyone in the garage. –Frank Velat, Contributor
5. Jimmie Johnson…wait, WHAT?
I’m totally on the Landon Cassill Express as well, but since it’s unorginal at this point, I’m going to go a little off the rails here. It’s hard to call a six-time champion underrated, but everybody and everything but Jimmie Johnson seems to get the credit for his 79 Cup Series wins. It’s likely that when Johnson retires he’ll be in the top 5 all time in wins. But it seems like people are quick to make excuses for them: he has better equipment, it’s all due to his genius crew chief Chad Knaus, NASCAR lets him win, his engineers have found a way to disrupt the space-time continuum, he’s got UFO technology in his engine… you get the point. At the end of the day, the common denominator is that Johnson is the one driving the car. He deserves more credit for that than he gets. –Amy Henderson, Senior Editor
Great point! Johnson is routinely mentioned by Hall of Famers and other NASCAR veterans when it comes to the most talented drivers ever. He, personally, may not be loud or flashy or controversial, but he’s always there and always in a position to win. If Jeff Gordon hand-picks you to drive a stock car, you must have some serious skills. –Mark Howell