The journey to the top of the mountain in American motorsports isn’t an easy one, and Landon Cassill did it at a young age.
The Cedar Rapids, Iowa native has only garnered one top five and one top-10 finish in his eight-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, but a lot of that can be attributed to circumstance. Driving for multiple owners and teams, he never found the stability he needed. It wasn’t until he found Front Row Motorsports that he can call an organization his “home.” His best finish of the 2017 season was 16th in the season-opening Daytona 500, but is looking to steadily improve and ultimately giving FRM another race victory.
Cassill spent some time with Fronstretch in between practice sessions the day before his 36th-place finish in the I Love NY 355 at The Glen in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports hauler.
Davey Segal, Frontstretch.com: It’s a little past halfway in the year, and you’re 33rd in the points. I know it’s not really where you want to be, but how would you guys assess your place in the season so far, and what can you do to improve a little bit?
Landon Cassill: It’s been going alright. We just haven’t had the best luck lately and I’m kind of a believer that you create your own luck. So it just makes us want to work harder to get everything better so we can end up on the right side of fortune.
Segal: You’ve driven for a lot of different owners in your Cup career. James Finch, Germain Racing, BK Racing, Joe Falk and now Front Row Motorsports. And that’s not even to mention in XFINITY when you drove for Hendrick for a little bit and some other guys in trucks as well. But Front Row is a good place for you to kind of be yourself for your driving career. Is that a fair assessment and what makes you so comfortable here?
Cassill: Yeah, for sure. I mean I think Bob Jenkins is a really good car owner that kind of just puts his faith in this team and puts his faith in me and lets us do what we need to do. And I really appreciate that he kind of allows me to have my personality, whatever it is on or off the track. I feel like it works well for our partners, they seem to be happy. So yeah, we kind of have all those pieces together. We just need to get those results on track to keep going.
Segal: Something that can probably help that is a good relationship with your crew chief. I know you were talking with him before this, Seth Barbour. You had Donnie Wingo for the first 17 races, but he moved on to different things within the company. How has the relationship been with Seth?
Cassill: It’s been great. I think Seth is great. I think he’s ambitious to help this team out and tighten that bond between Roush Fenway Racing and and Furniture. I think he has a lot to gain from it so theres definitely a lot in it for both of us.
Segal: We know you guys aren’t aiming to go out and win every single weekend. You have a couple weekend’s a year, your Daytona’s and Talladega’s, ‘alright maybe its a real thing here’. What constitutes a successful race weekend for you week in and week out?
Cassill: It’s hard to really say, but you can just kind of tell when you got everything out of it. I feel like that’s what we look for and not just the driver getting everything out of the car, but just everything out of our relationship, and the communication, and the adjustments. We feel like we want to see the car peak on the race weekend and go as fast as it can go and keep it there for the whole race if we can.
So kind of just getting everything out of it. And usually when you do that, for our team, that’s a top-20 finish. That’s a good run, so you can kind of outrun all the other guys that have similar sponsorship and funding than our cars, but also cherry pick some of the bigger teams. We’re a good team that has a lot of infrastructure. We’re not just one of these small teams that anyone would just call an underdog garage operation. We’re not anything like that. But it still takes a lot to compete at this high level. So we have to make sure we get everything out of it.
Segal: I think of road courses as maybe the great equalizer. Watkins Glen is different from Sonoma in the sense that you need aero here and not so much there. But do you guys consider this a weekend where you can squeak out a top-10, maybe even contend for a race win on strategy?
Cassill: For sure. The strategy is definitely an opportunity. This race is a race of attrition, too. Sometimes if you can make sure you get all the speed out of it that you can, and even if you’re a 25th-place car, with that speed you can easily run 15th.
Segal: I want to go back to your humble abode and beginnings in Iowa. You started racing at three-years old?
Cassill: Yeah, I started racing with four-wheelers and moved up to go-karts.
Segal: That’s nuts. So what was it like racing from that young of an age and getting into the NASCAR world? Did you know that this was the path that you always wanted to go down?
Cassill: It’s definitely the path I always wanted to go down. I think when you’re that young you don’t really know or think about how you’re gonna get there. I didn’t really have any understanding of that. I just loved to race. I loved to build my cars, I loved racing on any kind of race track. Dirt, asphalt, road course. You know, I’ve kind of been in a lot of different race cars over my career and I just have a passion for it no matter what it is. I don’t really have a bias to any type of racing because I think its all really fascinating.
Segal: You made your NASCAR debut as a 17-year-old. Did you have a bit of a weird transition from being a teenage kid with all your friends going off to college and doing teenage things when you were going to the race track every week?
Cassill: It might have been, looking back on it. I think I was kind of really zoned in on what I wanted to do at that time so I wasn’t really worried about what my friends were up to.
Segal: Going back a little bit more to 2008 at Nashville. I’m not too familiar with the situation, but I read that you and Bobby Hamilton Jr. might have had a little altercation. If you remember, can you take me back there?
Cassill: Yeah. I believe it started at Nashville. He cut his right front tire and hit the wall and really thought it was my fault. He blamed it on me. I don’t know how I cut his right front tire but he carried that on for awhile and ended up taking me out in New Hampshire. After I qualified on the pole and was coming up through the field, he kind of just cheap-shotted me and wrecked me. So that was kind of crappy.
I was mad about it and a few weeks later, I retaliated and wrecked him on the last lap at Memphis. And that’s when there was an infamous pit road (incident) when his wife was me giving the double bird in front of the car, and he was trying to yell at me inside the car and stuff. It was kind of stupid. I think altercations like that when you’re not even the two guys racing for the win are pointless. If he thinks I wrecked him in Nashville, he wrecked a car there, and then he wrecked my car in New Hampshire, and I wrecked his car in Memphis and it didn’t do anybody any good.
Segal: It’s just a bunch of torn up racecars.
Cassill: Yeah, it’s just a bunch of torn ups racecars, and neither of us ended up with a trophy. I tried to call him and talk to him afterwords and he answered the phone. And when I told him who it was he told me ‘oh I gotta go I’ll call you right back’ and he hung up and never called me back. And so at that point, that’s when I realized that I wasn’t worried about making friends around here. And texting and calling to apologize later after races is stupid as well. So I learned a lot of new policies after that.
Segal: You gotta get what you gotta get I guess, right?
Cassill: Yeah, I mean I bring my team here and that’s who supports me and I get along with a lot of guys at the race track but I truly and honestly don’t care about their feelings. I would rather beat them on the race track.
Segal: I gotta talk to you about social media, obviously. Twitter last night, insane. Hilarious. I consider you the social media wizard of the NASCAR garage. You do Facebook live’s all the time at Love’s Travel Stops, your sponsor. You’re on Twitter constantly. Snapchat with your son, Instagram. What got you into social media? You say you’re a child of the internet and I feel you on that. So what makes you want to go on Twitter after a race or do a Facebook live and pay for people’s gas?
Cassill: It’s just fun. I feel like its the way that our generation can connect with fans more so than just an autograph session and taking a picture. It’s a real way to communicate. There are a lot of fans out there that have a really good knowledge and spend a lot of time researching out sport and pay attention to what’s going on. So I feel like I deliver a package of inside jokes to these people and they get it.
Segal: I think package would be putting it lightly.
Cassill: Yeah, the content is very inside joke like, mixed in with the way the internet looks at humor. And that part of it, the training aspect of it, comes from being a kid that sits on message boards in middle school all the time and learning how to communicate behind a keyboard. It’s definitely different than previous generations and how they grew up. I just have fun with it. But the biggest thing I enjoy is when my fans really understand what’s going on. I feel like I have a core group of people that get it. And to me, that’s more important than trying to offend the mass people that just don’t get it.
Segal: How do you get your sponsors involved? I mentioned Love’s Travel Stops. But they must be thrilled to see you getting them involved and it seems pretty cool on your end as well.
Cassill: I think most of the time they do. You definitely keep a lot of it positive and I think they like that. Especially the Facebook Lives and the gift cards I have when I buy people fuel and stuff. That’s just a genuine gesture and people really appreciate that. And it makes for good stories.
Segal: There have been some rumors of Front Row Motorsports expanding to three cars. Tell me your thoughts on that. Would you be a fan of it, and do you see that happening in the future? Some teams have been downsizing nowadays. But more cars, a bigger fleet and more information to share wouldn’t hurt.
Cassill: Yeah, so Bob (Jenkins) has a third charter. And I think he was really smart in acquiring that when he did. Because it provides this organization the opportunity to expand when the time is right. And I think that timing would have to be manufacturer related. I think that it would be a great benefit to Front Row to get some big manufacturer support and expand to a three-car team. I don’t know when that is, and I’m not at all involved in any of those discussions. So I couldn’t tell you if we were to expand next year or the year after or what would cause that. But I feel like the thought process behind why Bob positioned himself like that, it just shows that he’s a guy with a long-game vision and someone that these sponsors and manufacturers need to look at as a serious player in the future in this sport.
Segal: Silly Season has been silly. Drivers are going everywhere, speculating, etc. But people forget you’re only 28-years-old. You’ve been in the sport a long time, you know how it works and you have a lot of relationships. What does the future hold for you at FRM and in the future in general?
Cassill: I feel like I have unfinished business at FRM. I want to remain here for as long as I can until I complete the job. I want to give them the best season that they’ve ever had and I want to give them a win outside of a superspeedway or a rain delay or something like that. I would definitely want to give them a supperspeedway win, but I want to give them some really good results. And I feel like we have a lot of work to do to get there so I’m not really worried about what else is outside and going on.
Below is a video capture of our conversation with Landon Cassill
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