Pedal to the Metal with Landon Cassill (September 2019)

Certainly, Landon Cassill makes the most of his physical fitness for his racing efforts. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Certainly, Landon Cassill makes the most of his physical fitness for his racing efforts. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

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 with his monthly journal!

For Cassill’s September journal, we reflect on his Sterling Marlin throwback for Darlington, his most recent Ironman competition, a racing inspiration, and the recent gains for the StarCom Racing and JD Motorsports organizations.

Rob Tiongson :  Firstly, you had a great run at Darlington.  I saw that Coors Light assisted with tires, provided free beer, and enjoyed the throwback to Sterling Marlin.  How neat was that to see that a throwback could yield amazing results?

Landon Cassill :  It was a great throwback.  I was really surprised at how much attention that paint scheme brought.  But, I guess once I saw the car, I realized how well it stood out.  And it shows you how good of a paint scheme that thing is because Ryan Daley, our artist, did a phenomenal job replicating the Coors Light “Silver Bullet” paint scheme.

I’ll tell you, that thing must’ve really stood out on the track back in the day when Sterling drove it nearly 20 years ago.  I was really proud of how that collaboration ended up.  It was really cool for Coors Light to notice it and reach out to us, and first of all, not be mad at us about any kind of trademark infringement, and to really be proud to see it and want to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation and help us out.

Rob Tiongson :  You and your team raised a lot of money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation which was neat to see.  It was neat that you’re not only helping someone like Sterling Marlin or Michael J. Fox but those afflicted by Parkinson’s Disease.

It seems like that StarCom Racing is a team that makes a difference in people’s lives.  With the initiative for the Napoleon Township earlier this year and the Sterling Marlin tribute at Darlington, how neat is that to be involved with a team that truly reaches out?

By all means, Cassill appreciates the teachings of the late Nick Harrison. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

By all means, Cassill appreciates the teachings of the late Nick Harrison. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  It just makes it really special.  Sterling is someone who’s truly special to the sport.  I haven’t dealt with Sterling personally very much but I always felt like I had a special connection to Sterling because of my relationship with Nick Harrison who recently passed away.  He was my crew chief at Phoenix Racing.

Sterling was someone who mentored Nick.  Nick really learned a lot from Sterling that he honestly passed onto me with a number of specific things.  I always felt a connection to Sterling through Nick so when we ended up running Sterling’s paint scheme, it was pretty special to me to really honor him like that.

Rob Tiongson :  That’s really cool.  We’ll never forget Nick Harrison, someone who truly resonated with lots of people in NASCAR.  You completed the Half Ironman Triathlon last month in Vichy, France.  How would you assess your latest efforts and what’s your next race or Ironman competition?

Landon Cassill :  Honestly, I was really proud of my performance in France and I was really happy with it.  I felt like I ran really well and strong.  It was actually one of my stronger runs.  And I didn’t even put in that much run volume in my training.  So, I was pretty pleased with the results.

It really motivates me to sign up for another race, so I’ve got another couple of races on my radar right now that I’d like to do next year.  We’ve obviously got two weekends off in the summertime, so there’s a couple of Ironman events that I might do during those two off weekends.  I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely motivated to do it.  I’ve let my body recover fully but I’m getting back into triathlon training even though I don’t have races (during that time) on the schedule.  I’m training as if I do so that I can build up my fitness and do it with more run and biking volume than I did for France.

I actually learned a little bit about my nutrition in France that I think will help me in the racecar.  So, I was able to add more sodium, salt, and electrolytes into my race nutrition plan that I think will help subside cramping issues and things like that.  So, that kind of thing will be helpful for me in a racecar for these hot races.

Rob Tiongson :  Speaking of a long race, Darlington took the cake as probably one of the longest races in recent memory.  What did you do to stay up prior to being called to your car?  Were you able to rest but quickly get ready for the race?

Make no mistake, Cassill earned his paycheck for Darlington. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Make no mistake, Cassill earned his paycheck for Darlington. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  That was crazy.  I haven’t done a race that late in a long time.  And it was definitely hard.  I just tried to relax during that time.  I didn’t really do anything that I thought would fatigue me at all, so I tried to keep some fluids and calories in me so I wouldn’t be hungry late in the race.  And I had a little caffeine in me once the race started to give me a little bit of an energy boost.

When you look at the radar and the track conditions, and to be able to predict how much time it’s going to be until the race starts, that gives me the peace of mind to kick back and relax and maybe take a little nap.  That’s how I handled that rain delay.  I tried to stay on my feet as best as possible.  Once the race got started, it was pretty good.  My energy level was really good.

I can tell you that I was really feeling it at the end of the night.  And really, I drove home from Darlington after the race.  Fortunately, I didn’t drive by myself.  I was able to be a passenger in the car.  Once about 30 minutes after the race was over and the adrenaline wore off, I was pretty smashed.  I was pretty darn tired.  It was 4:30 by the time that I got home in the morning.  I took a shower, cleaned up, and went to bed at 5.  My head hit the pillow by 5 o’clock.

Rob Tiongson :  You earned your paycheck for that race!  That was nuts.

Of course, Cassill enjoys meeting with fans! (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Of course, Cassill enjoys meeting with fans! (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  Honestly, it’ll be a similar experience for us for the Vegas race because we’ll be starting at 7 Eastern time, it’s a three and a half hour race, so it ends at 10:30.  But you’ve got a five hour flight home.  It’ll be about 3:30, 4 in the morning by the time you get home, get in bed, and get to sleep.

It’s especially hard.  I mean, even what I described getting home at 4:30, and being in bed by 5, I was probably an hour or two hours ahead of the rest of my crew who loads the car up and puts everything away.  I know some of my crew guys who didn’t get home until 6 or 7 in the morning.

Rob Tiongson :  Absolutely true.  Everyone on the crew, be it the pit crew or those in the organization chart, it’s a grind.  Probably makes you thankful Indy’s a shorter weekend for you!

Landon Cassill :  I was jetlagged worse for three days after Darlington than I was getting home from France!

Rob Tiongson :  (laughs) That’s crazy.  I was going to ask how long it took you to adjust to the Eastern Standard Time after your Ironman race in France?

Landon Cassill :  It was pretty easy for me actually.  Our flight landed at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and we got home, and we were dead tired when we got home, and we went to bed early.  On the next day, we got a full night’s sleep and we were right back on schedule.  For the next day, we were a little groggy, but I was good.  But after Darlington, I wasn’t right until Wednesday!

Rob Tiongson :  Not even a real Labor Day rest!  We should just do more international races for you! (laughs) We talked about Indy and Vegas, but let’s tackle the Brickyard more.  Given the tendency for this package to promote full throttle racing, might this resemble IROC, superspeedway racing and make drafting even more important?

One could say that LC00 knows his NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

One could say that LC00 knows his NASCAR. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  I definitely think so.  Really, we’ll able to tell after practice based on how easily we can run wide open.  If you can run wide open by yourself for 10, 15, 20 laps without any problems, drafting will be a huge factor in the race.

If it’s hard to run wide open for even one lap at all, then drafting will be a factor down the straightaways and it’ll be a factor on restarts.  But the cars will end up getting spread out pretty quickly and there’ll be little pockets of drafting battles and cars racing head-to-head.

Like in the XFINITY practice, I could run wide open easily, even in traffic.  I felt like drafting is going to be a huge factor in the XFINITY races.  But the Cup cars have about 100 more horsepower and downforce than the XFINITY cars, so they’ll be going a lot faster.

Rob Tiongson :  At some point, someone in our walk of life inspired or mentored us to build a lasting foundation.  Which driver or racing personality catalyzed or reinforced your love of competing in NASCAR?

Landon Cassill :  Absolutely, aside from my dad, who’s my number one mentor in life with everything, when it comes to racing specifically, Gary St. Amant was my closest mentor at a young age.  He was someone who really influenced me as a driver.  He really influenced my driving style and he was someone that I learned at a young age how to take care of a racecar but still be fast, pass people, how to race aggressively without putting your car at risk.

And he was someone who taught me how to conserve tires.  And he taught me how to be fast at 80 percent effort, conserving my equipment and tires, and how to get around a lot of good racetracks and how to work with people that I was working with.  A lot of the fundamentals about being a professional racecar driver, I learned from Gary St. Amant.

Rob Tiongson :  He’s a great racecar driver and someone who’s one of the best ASA racers around in that Wynn’s Chevrolet.  I remember he battled Mike Eddy, Kevin Cywinski – you had a great mentor right there who took the time to teach you the fundamentals about racing.

Now, I understand you’ve got an open wheel racing buddy who went to Indy in Conor Daly!  What’s it like to have them experience what you do, and vice versa?

Cassill appreciates his friendship in the world of racing. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Cassill appreciates his friendship in the world of racing. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  You know, I haven’t made it to any of his races yet mainly because our schedule always overlaps with their schedule.  And he’s the one with more time off than I am because of the IndyCar schedule.

We struck up a friendship really a year ago when we ran the BC39 together.  We really identify with each other in our career paths and we have a lot of the same struggles as professional drivers and a lot of the upside.

Even though he’s driving a different kind of racecar, we face the same challenges.  So, we definitely keep in touch and we’re really supportive of each other in our conversations which is really fun.  I really enjoy my friendship with Conor.

It’s funny because his stepdad is the president of IMS, and I’m always giving him a hard time because I’m like, “How come you can’t get your own hot pass?” (laughs) But I’m glad I could hook him up with credentials so that he could hang out with me.

Rob Tiongson :  Let’s talk about a racing term mentioned during telecasts.  When a driver requests for a trackbar adjustment, what does this adjustment do to a car?

Landon Cassill :  The trackbar is a straight bar that’s about three feet long.  And on the right side of it, it attaches to the frame of the chassis.  On the left side, it attaches to the rear end housing.  It’s basically a bar that controls the location of the rear end housing underneath the racecar.

When you’re raising or lowering the trackbar, you’re changing the angle in which the trackbar is mounted in the car.  And the angle of how it’s mounted in the car can change the direction of how the rear end housing is moving when the car moves up and down.

Typically, when you raise the trackbar, it makes the car looser.  When you lower the trackbar, it makes the car tighter.  That’s the basics of that adjustment.

Rob Tiongson :  That’s probably the clearest explanation of that adjustment I’ve heard in 28 years!  Not sure if you heard but Netflix and Formula One will do a season two of “Drive to Survive,” a series we discussed in April.  How excited are you to see this at some point next year?  And which drivers in F1 have impressed you this season?

Landon Cassill :  I don’t know – I mean, obviously, Leclerc got his first win which was pretty impressive.  I don’t mean to be basic but I feel like Lewis Hamilton just continues to impress me over and over again.   So, I don’t see how he would not go down as one of the, if not, the greatest F1 driver in history, which’ll hurt a lot of feelings of Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna fans. (laughs) But, he’s pretty incredible and what he does for that sport is unbelievable.  I’m a big Lewis Hamilton fan and I’d love to see more of him on the show.

Rob Tiongson :  You’ll be happy knowing that Season 2 features all drivers and teams.  When you and your team are having a huddle or debriefing during the weekend, which of you keeps things light?

Landon Cassill :  Probably me.  I’m probably the one that keeps things a little bit lighter. (laughs) I probably keep it pretty casual more times than not.

Rob Tiongson :  I can see that!  StarCom Racing and JD Motorsports seem to be on the rise as of late.  How encouraging is it to see both operations thriving as their driver?

Whether in Cup or NXS, Cassill thrives in his current rides. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Whether in Cup or NXS, Cassill thrives in his current rides. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fuller/TPF)

Landon Cassill :  Yea, it really is encouraging.  It makes me feel good to see progress and I feel like we’re really running well on the Cup side right now.  Our cars have been driving well and that’s where a lot of our speed has been coming from.  And on the XFINITY side, it’s great because Johnny’s got a good little team.  I always felt like I’ve been a part of that team, even when I’m not driving for Johnny.  I talk to him a lot and I feel like we consult with each other on a lot of things.

I’m just filling in for him – it’s great to jump in and see the progress that those cars have made.  It’s particularly nice for me, personally, to run both XFINITY and Cup on the same weekend because it gives me that extra opportunity to have a successful run.  Even if one car runs well and the other one doesn’t, I have something to stand on every weekend.

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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