By Jeremiah Davis
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Landon Cassill has had some time on his hands recently. He’s filled it with his usual routine of triathlon training, but also with a gig doing TV for NBC Sports, as an analyst on NASCAR America.
But the Cedar Rapids native was quick to point out that he’s still a racecar driver first; that he’s still eagerly searching for opportunities to further his career.
For the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, Cassill gets to come in off the bench and get back behind the wheel of a racecar. StarCom Racing announced Monday that Cassill would be behind the wheel of the No. 00 Chevy this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, as well as at Texas Motor Speedway after the off week.
What comes of it in terms of anything long-term isn’t yet clear to Cassill or the team, but just being back in the car is more than enough right now.
“That’s the biggest thing for me right now, just being back in a car,” Cassill told The Inside Track on Monday. “I’m happy I’m doing this with a new team, too. That’s been one of my strengths throughout my career. Working with new teams is a different kind of optimism. I just feel like there’s so much opportunity and there’s always fresh blood.
“I feel like this is something I’m good at.”
StarCom and Cassill got connected in the last few days, he said, before he was hired to drive the car. The new team officially parted ways with Jeffrey Earnhardt on Monday morning, leaving the seat vacant. Earnhardt, the grandson of legendary driver Dale Earnhardt, had a best finish of 21st in the No. 00 in the Daytona 500, but had an average finish of 34th in the four races that followed.
The first month or so of the season has been difficult for the competitive 28-year-old Cassill, who never has been one to sit idle.
His role with NBC has kept him watching closely, of course, albeit through multiple lenses. Making the most of limited opportunities isn’t something new to Cassill, and that’s the obvious goal for these two races ahead of him.
“I think I just want to run well,” Cassill said. “I think the team has had a handful of struggles in the first few weeks, and I think they feel like they have some good cars and hopefully we can find the performance. I hope we can chase that group of cars they feel like they should be racing with and keep the fenders on it and give them something to build on.”
Whether or not Cassill has more races this season with StarCom or anyone else in any series – those “would you drive in the Xfinity or Truck Series” tweets are only sort of in jest – depends on a number of factors.
As always, sponsorship is the biggest piece. It’s the way of the NASCAR world, of course. Cassill spent all offseason, as he said in Daytona, looking for partners and settled on one aspect he felt was most important to him: Iowa.
Cassill has said on several occasions how proud he is to be from Cedar Rapids and to get to represent Iowa. He said Monday he took special pride in Iowans making his the most-sold diecast car in the state in 2017, surpassing even Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his retirement season.
As you might’ve seen on Twitter, the most recent revelation for the social-media-savvy driver has been connecting with the trucking company CRST, which is one of the biggest in the nation and is headquartered in Cedar Rapids. Something as simple as seeing a CRST truck on the road led to one tweet, then another and now his fans jumping on board.
It’s just an example of the work he’s had time – unfortunately for him – to do while not in a racecar.
“I have a great ambition to work with an Iowa-based company in NASCAR,” Cassill said. “I think NASCAR has a lot to offer the state of Iowa. I have such a tremendous fanbase in Iowa.
“I feel like there’s a real opportunity there. In a world of searching for sponsors, I feel like I’ve been more intentional about it this year in terms of looking for Iowa-based companies. CRST is a company I think highly of and admire, and I think they would fit well here.”