Pedal to the Metal with Landon Cassill (July 2019)

It's possible that the man in this photo joined Club 30. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

It’s possible that Landon Cassill recently joined Club 30. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Each month, Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 00 StarCom Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, shares his thoughts on the world of NASCAR, happenings in pop culture, and virtually anything on his mind!

For this July edition, Cassill reflects on an exciting, dramatic race at Daytona on his birthday, his son Beckham’s first go-kart race, the debate surrounding a recent win for a new race team, and one of his favorite obscure song lyrics!

Rob Tiongson :  Recently, you celebrated your birthday in unique fashion by racing on July 7th at Daytona.  In fact, you and your team were in position for a possible win or a top-five at Daytona.  How intense was the race?  And what was on your mind during those final laps leading up to the confusion before the lightning delay that ended the race?

Landon Cassill :  I mean, it was definitely intense racing at Daytona.  Daytona doesn’t ever disappoint.  It’s such a wonderful, great racetrack.  I think this package is a really great one for Daytona.  I was really enjoying the race and I felt like my racecar was pretty good.  And I felt like we could’ve had a good finish regardless of the outcome, if we had to race our way to the end or whatever.

It’s just hard to predict the weather and it’s hard to predict when NASCAR, how they need to make their call…and at this point, it’s just behind us.  The reality is that we were sort of next in line in position to be in the lead when that red flag came out.

But we chose to pit, kind of playing the long game, thinking that the weather was either going to hold off or clear out fast enough for NASCAR to have some incentive to finish the race.  That’s how it happened.

An 11th place finish is still pretty good for us.  But, it’s hard to swallow when you know what could’ve been.

Rob Tiongson :  The thing about your finish and performance at Daytona was that you weren’t riding in the back of the pack.  You were competitive, fought back from some early race ordeals, and you avoided the big wreck in Turn One.  What was it like to get through that carnage?

Life is a highway...(Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Life is a highway…(Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  It was like trying to miss any wreck at Daytona.  It’s a challenge and it is equal parts luck as it is your skill.  Fortunately, I was in a good spot where I wasn’t going to get hit from anyone behind me and the cars around me made all the right moves so that nobody ran into me.  And, I was able to slow down sort of at the same pace as the crash so that I could let the track clean itself and slide to the bottom and I stayed up at the high side and made it through.

Rob Tiongson :  That sounds like Cole Trickle kind of racing!  We should call you Cole Cassill! (laughs) I saw on your Twitter how your son Beckham recently raced in a go-kart.  He raced at the same place you competed at many years ago.  How much of a full circle experience is this for you to see your son take after your passion?

Landon Cassill :  It was great!  He really enjoyed himself.  He made his first start in a go-kart at Newton Kart Club which is where I raced at when I was eight or nine years old.  And he’s four, so he’s got a head start on me.  So, if he truly loves it and wants to stick with it, I know his grandpa’s behind him.

My dad’s really supportive and he’s the one who put him on the racetrack.  And maybe he’s got the built-in advantage by having his old man doing some racing.  He’s got more of a head start than I did when I was his age.  It’s just really up to him if he wants to race or not.

But he’s only four years old, so he’s having fun and he really enjoyed it.  And he’s been talking about it ever since.  He told me recently that he wanted to do it again, so hopefully we can get back out on the racetrack here soon. 

Rob Tiongson :  That’s exciting stuff and cool that he raced in the same place years ago.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve followed this story, but the US Women’s Soccer team won their fourth World Cup championship.  Did you follow along and how special was it to watch their amazing journey to another title?

Landon Cassill :  No, I didn’t follow the women’s soccer team but I know that team’s been dominant.  It’s hard to not, even from a distance, see them in the headlines or in my timeline to see what they’re up to.  It’s really cool to have an American team not just win the World Cup, but show the kind of dominance that they’ve had in it.  It probably puts some pressure back on the men’s side to get their team together.

Rob Tiongson :  Absolutely!  As you’re raising your daughter Daphne knowing how the women’s team has fought for equality during these times is pretty inspirational, wouldn’t you say?

Of course, Cassill looks to empower his kids with a positive, proactive mindset. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Of course, Cassill looks to empower his kids with a positive, proactive mindset. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  Yea, absolutely.  I think that for my daughter, I want to raise her and show her…I want to be raised with the mindset that she can control her own destiny and I want her to be motivated to control her own destiny.  And, it’s really hard, especially in my business and what I do.

I’ve learned that it’s really easy to point the blame when things don’t go your way in a race, or a call doesn’t go your way.  Shoot, for me, the weekend at Daytona is a perfect example of that.  Do I want to blame it on NASCAR, the weather, or my crew chief?  How do I want to make an excuse for myself on the reason I didn’t get the outcome that I wanted?  And I feel that way sometimes when you leave superspeedways.

On Friday night, I was involved in a wreck that wasn’t really my doing.  I didn’t cause the wreck and I didn’t drive into it.  My car got wrecked because the guy behind me hit me.  And it’s not my fault, right?  But, if that’s how I’m going to look at it, then I’m never going to learn from those experiences.

I really want my daughter and all of my kids to grow up with this mindset that they’re going to take responsibility first for everything that happens to them and then they can learn from there.  Hopefully, if she chooses to be an athlete, that’s a really high pressure, high physical demand situation and you have to have a lot of tenacity and grit to make it through a career with that mindset.  But it’s absolutely necessary.

Rob Tiongson :  That’s a great principle to follow and I’d say you’ve got your kids leading good lives with that mindset.

We’ve seen a couple of first-time Cup winners in Alex Bowman and Justin Haley.  What’s your thoughts on seeing these young drivers capture their first victories?  In the case of Haley’s win, what do you make of some of the debate with it in terms of the win being a genuine, legitimate one?

By all means, this StarCom Racing team gives it their all each weekend. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

By all means, this StarCom Racing team gives it their all each weekend. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  I mean, I think it’s an absolutely legitimate win.  I would love for somebody to show me what Spire’s doing that’s inappropriate or somehow disqualifies them in any way than teams on the higher end of things outsource their operations.

It’s no different than the Wood Brothers outsources their operations to Penske and it’s no different than how Germain outsources their operations to RCR, to some extent.  It’s not to call out people specifically, but there’s multiple levels with how these race teams outsource their operations.

And for Spire, as late in the game that they bought their charter, their only option going into this season was to outsource their operations to someone else.  It had to fit their business model and budget.  So, it’s pretty unfair for people to say they’re not trying in terms of performance.  I think the future is going to decide how good of a job they’ll do with trying to build their business and watch their performance grow with that.

They deserve to win and it’s an official win.  It’s a real win.  I love first-time winners and I think it’s a great thing.  I think it shows parity in our sport.  Even if it’s a rain-delayed, rain-shorted race, it’s still a real win and it matters.  And that’s how I’d want people to look at it if I were the beneficiary of a rain-shorted win.  I don’t really see anything wrong with it and I just wished it was me!

Rob Tiongson :  Maybe it will one day!  Now, in July, we’ve got the races at Kentucky, Loudon, and Pocono which are three completely different speedways.  Describe what it’s like to take on these tracks and some of your attacking points from your vantage point.

To say the least, Cassill looks forward to this month's stretch of races! (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

To say the least, Cassill looks forward to this month’s stretch of races! (Photo Credit: Matteo Marcheschi/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  For these three tracks, I’m really looking forward to having the traction compound.  Even though they are unique racetracks, I think that’s a commonality that no matter where you put, traction compound improves the racing.  I’m definitely excited about that.  Kentucky’s a fun place and that’s a place where the traction compound’s definitely going to improve the racing.

New Hampshire’s been a good racetrack for me for the most part historically.  I like that short track.  It’s important to really focus on your technique as a driver for New Hampshire.

I’m looking forward to Pocono just because it’s going to be different than what we raced at in June.  It’s going to have the traction compound and it’s going to be a little bit more competitive that way.

So, this is definitely a good stretch of races in my mind for the sport because I think the racing is going to be improved than what you would normally see.

Rob Tiongson :  We’re just about a month away from your Ironman 70.3 mile event in France!  How’s training been going for you and have you adjusted some of your routines in terms of intensity or endurance?

Landon Cassill :  I mean, I feel like I’m a little behind in my training right now.  But these last five weeks are the most critical time for me.  I’m turning it up the best that I can and try to get the most volume in.  I’m going to have some tough workouts in the next few weeks that’ll really decide if I can go the whole distance or not.

Rob Tiongson :   Absolutely, and the best of luck with that next month!  Now, you have mentioned about embracing the folk hero status.  It has led you to a pretty enthusiastic fan base, but do you recall who your first big fan was and how y’all met?

As seen above, Cassill enjoys taking his time with fans during the race weekend. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

As seen above, Cassill enjoys taking his time with fans during the race weekend. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  I think that obviously Dylan Goodin is a big fan of mine and he’s a great guy that supports me a lot.  Early on, Presley Kern is probably one of my most dedicated fans.  I’ve seen her at Daytona many times from the time I was racing for Hendrick.  She’s always been a supportive of mine and her Twitter handle is @kasey_n_landon.  Her and her friends get me a birthday present every year.  She’s a really special fan to me along with Dylan.

Dylan is someone I consider a friend.  He’s been around for a long time as well.  I feel a lot of drivers have a lot of passionate fans.  And I’m pretty honored to have such a tight group of passionate fans that know each other as well as they know me.

Rob Tiongson :  The Cassillaniacs are awesome people!  I love how passionate and enthusiastic fans are with their drivers to say the least.  I have to ask, last year, you had the Mane ‘n Tail throwback at Darlington.  What are the plans for this year at Darlington?

Landon Cassill :  I’m not sure what our plans are.  I know we’ve got some companies that we’ve been talking for Darlington throwbacks.  That’s yet to be determined but hopefully we can pair up with a really good sponsor.

Rob Tiongson :  It’d be cool!  I mean last year, you had Derrike Cope’s look down pat minus the mustache.  For my last topic of this month, I wonder, as this has come up for me, what is the most obscure song lyric that resonates to you to this day, no matter the age of the song?  I’ll tell you mine afterwards.

Landon Cassill :  Oh, I know what it is!  It’s so weird because my wife pointed it out to me recently too! (laughs) Because it doesn’t make any sense.  It was a top-40 hit in the past three or four years.  Oh, gosh, it’s something about dirty laundry.  C’mon, it’s coming to me! I feel like it may be a Maroon 5 song.  I’m going to get it for you and find it. (moments later) What is your random lyric?

Rob Tiongson :  Mine is from my childhood and comes from “Karma Chameleon” from Culture Club.  It goes, “Everyday is like survival.”  And I like it cause yea, when I get through work, it’s quite true!

Is Kaz Grala becoming an Avicci fan at Loudon? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Is Kaz Grala becoming an Avicci fan at Loudon? (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  It’s quite true!  I guess mine isn’t deep or thoughtful, but obscure and random and not make sense, which a lot of pop songs these days don’t.  I know another good one.  When you hit me up with obscure, it made me think of this one.

The lyrics to the song from “The Night” by Avicii seems weird to me.  I don’t know, it’s just like, “One day, my father told me, son, don’t let it slip away“ and at the end of the verse, the way he says, “My father told me,” it just seemed so random to me!  (laughter)

It’s a good song, it’s got a good beat because it’s from Avicii, and he makes good music, but for some reason, the lyrics just don’t make sense to me.

Rob Tiongson :  (laughs) “Son, don’t let it slip away,” he took me in his arms, I heard him say, “When you get older, your wild life will live for younger days, think of me if ever you’re afraid.”  Yes, we’ll let fans enjoy this with a YouTube link, my friend!

Editor’s Notes

Special thanks to Landon and StarCom Racing for this wonderful opportunity!  We look forward to more insights and perspectives from Landon as he brings us closer to the world of NASCAR.  Stay tuned for next month’s journal entry with Landon here on TPF!

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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