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Pedal to the Metal with Landon Cassill (February 2019)

Optimistic and excited, Landon Cassill can't wait for the new NASCAR season! (Photo Credit: StarCom Racing)

Optimistic and excited, Landon Cassill can’t wait for the new NASCAR season! (Photo Credit: StarCom Racing)

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 his inaugural journal entry, Cassill talks about the upgrades by his team, the upcoming season, Daytona, and of course, his amazing hair!

Rob Tiongson :  The new year is here, and I can only imagine it feels like the first day of school.  How excited are you for the new season and to be preparing for your fifth Daytona 500?

Landon Cassill :  Yea, you know, the first day of school is the best way to describe coming to Daytona and I typically refer to Homestead as the last day of school. So, I’m definitely really excited and it’s always good to come to Daytona with a ride for the whole season with a team like StarCom and their second year, it’s been fun to be a part of their progress.  I’m definitely honored that they included me in this program.

Tiongson :  I imagine it must feel good as compared to last year, you’re in this for the full year.  The StarCom Racing team’s got some upgrades for the new year, including a new shop, a charter, and an engine program alliance with ECR Engines.  With these in mind, how optimistic are you about the team’s potential for strong results?

Cassill :  I think that those are necessary upgrades that I know the team was pretty committed to making those changes really early in the fall of 2018.  I mean, they were committed to getting better engines and they knew they needed the charter.  So, I think that those are definitely necessary upgrades that gives you optimism, but you still know as a team that we have to put really good race cars on the track and we’re still building.

We’re building our own cars and preparing our own cars. We don’t have a technical alliance when it comes to the car side. So, we’re relying on our talented people in the shop to put these things together.

And that’s going to be what makes the speed on a weekly basis by having consistent equipment, having good setups, and executing during the races.

Tiongson :  With a year under your belt with StarCom Racing, I’m sure that helps too.  NASCAR is also introducing a new aero package that is designed for closer racing.  As you were at Las Vegas for the test session, do you feel this could be an equalizer to allow for more parity on race day at some of the aero sensitive tracks?

Cassill :  I’m interested in how that’s going to turn out. I don’t know if it will fully be an equalizer by any means. I mean, I don’t think that anything really is the equalizer in motorsports. As long as there’s different people building different cars with different budgets, you’re going to have different products and that’s okay.

I mean, that’s kind of motorsports works. But I think that one thing that the package is going to offer is for the ability for more teams to stay on the lead lap and stay closer to the leader.  While I think you’re going to see the guys with the best cars and the best teams are still going to be up front and they’re still gonna have the best chance of winning, I think there’s gonna be more people that are within reaching distance of that leader to maybe feel a victory or have a thrilling finish.

Last year, we saw guys just dominate and they would fly through the field. They would lap up the 20th place within the first hundred laps of a race. That’s something you’re definitely not going to see this year.

Tiongson :  And that’s a good thing for everyone.  It puts everything back on the drivers and the teams during races.  I did want to talk about that awesome paint scheme that Ryan Daley designed for the team with Permatex for the Daytona 500.  How did this all come together?

Unique and colorful, Landon Cassill wheels the No. 00 Permatex Chevy around Daytona.

Unique and colorful, Landon Cassill wheels the No. 00 Permatex Chevy around Daytona.

Cassill :  Permatex is a really cool brand.  It’s always cool to have an automotive brand in the sport just because we are in motorsports and it’s good to see the automotive industry thriving.

Permatex has been around for a long time.  Bill France Sr. built an engine a long time ago and used all Permatex products in gaskets and motors back in the 1950s.  It’s kinda cool to have something with such a pedigree on our car and especially at a place like Daytona where history is so prevalent.

The car’s definitely sharp.  I’m proud to be on this team and driving this car.  I think we might get to see them on the car again later on in the year.

Tiongson:  It is really cool and it’d make for a great die-cast car!  Now I noticed you also have Manscaped where there’s been some creative tweets about this partnership.  With NASCAR ever embracing social media and that advertising realm within the sport, how neat is it to have this interaction and the casual side to NASCAR?

Cassill :  I love it!  I’m a child of the internet and I was born and raised using the web.  So, it’s pretty easy for me to navigate communication online.  A brand like Manscaped is perfect.  They’re an associate sponsor with us here at Daytona.  I’m hearing that I’ll get to take a look at their products pretty soon.

It’s pretty interesting!  They’re breaking the stigma of manscaping and getting it out there that your personal hygiene is pretty important and they make pretty good products to support that.

Tiongson :  We’ve seen a lot of this lately!  You had Mane ‘n Tail last year and now we have Corey Lajoie chasing you and your peers down with his face paint scheme from Old Spice.  Is this going to be a revolution in NASCAR?

Cassill :  (laughs) I’m not sure!  I like Corey’s paint scheme.  I think it’s a very handsome paint scheme.  He’s a good looking guy so he puts a good face on his car.

Tiongson :  It’d be a darn shame if that car wrecks next Sunday! (laughter) Now, it’s no secret that the Chevrolet camp had an uphill battle with the Camaro body.  With a year of knowledge and experience with this car, do you feel we’ll see improvement with the Chevrolet teams, and do you feel teams will collaborate more closely as well?

Cassill :  I see Chevy teams unifying a little bit more this year.  I think they know that’s just what it’s going to take if they want to beat Ford and Toyota.  Those are two camps that are extremely unified. Obviously, on the Toyota side, all their funding really goes into one organization. But on the Ford side, they support multiple different organizations, but they do a really, really good job of unifying their camp all together.

So, Chevy’s kind of figured out that if they can’t just spend more money there, they’re going to have to find a way to work better together if they can’t double their budget.  So, hopefully you’ll see some improvement.

But for us, the challenge is a little bit different.  It’s more about putting a good product for ourselves on the racetrack.  When it comes to the manufacturer specific stuff, that’s where our engine package with ECR, they’ll do most of the work on that.  And, we kind of reap the benefits of their research.

Tiongson :  We talked about some of the upgrades but let’s talk about experience.  You’ve certainly got that, but you also have a great team general manager in Derrike Cope who’s had his share of successes in NASCAR.  What’s it like to have him at your corner for input or suggestions during the season?

Cassill :  It’s great.  I really enjoy working with Derrike so far and he’s got an intense personality. He’s been around the sport a long time. He knows what he’s doing. So, we’ve got to keep plugging away and focus on our program and get our stuff right.

Tiongson :  Now we know with NASCAR, like other sports, it has embraced the e-sports world, particularly with iRacing and now the NASCAR Heat e-league.  As a racer, how cool is it to have the simulation racing world even more connected with NASCAR, and have you considered dabbling in a few races?

Perhaps Landon will bring his qualifying challenge back on iRacing! (Photo Credit: Amy Henderson)

Perhaps Landon will bring his qualifying challenge back on iRacing! (Photo Credit: Amy Henderson)

Cassill :  Absolutely!  I love iRacing.  I think that it is a wonderful simulation.  A number of years ago, I hosted two competitions called the Landon Cassill Qualifying Challenge.  It was a live stream event that paid real money and it was (about posting) the fastest lap.  It was just qualifying event with no race.

That was a lot of fun and it was a big hit.  I’ve had a lot of people asked me for a long time if I’d do it again.  With as big as e-sports is right now, I think I should.

Tiongson :  You never know as e-sports is thriving and it could bring in newer fans!  You’ve mentioned how you’re a child of the internet.  I know you’re the master of memes, comebacks on social media, and for some reason, I feel you know your pop culture.  Who is perhaps one guilty pleasure band or musician that you and your family absolutely enjoy hearing on Spotify or on the radio?

Cassill :  Oh man…you know, I listen to a lot of Post Malone lately.  I love Diplo.  He’s probably my favorite artist.  And there’s a song by Diplo called “Get It Right” that my son loves and it’s his favorite song.  So, we listen to it a lot.

Tiongson :  Would you say that your introduction song if tracks allowed you and your drivers to have one at each weekend like Bristol does?

Cassill :  Yea, I don’t know.  (laughs) I don’t know.  Our Cassill family theme song for 2019 is Panic at the Disco’s “High Hopes.”  So, we’ve been, as a family, when we’re all in the car together, we came jam out to that song and that’s our theme song.

Tiongson :  I see Carpool Karaoke potential if you film it!  Now to get back to the racing agenda, practice and qualifying’s in the books.  You’re locked into the race.  With weather possibly a factor during Speedweeks, what’s your hopes for the Daytona 500? And what’s your goals for the upcoming races like at Atlanta and the West Coast Swing?

Cassill :  Man, I really want a top-20 finish in the Daytona 500.  I think that’d just be a great way to start out our season.  I hope the race is wild, I hope there’s a lot of wrecks, I hope we can stay out of those wrecks, and then race our way into a few more spots.  A top-15, top-20 finish is definitely our goal.

In terms of Atlanta, we tested at Vegas and I feel like we were really ambitious about what we learned from the test.  I think that the best way that we can get the most out of that investment is to go to Atlanta and Vegas and run well.  I think that a top-25 at both of those tracks would be really good.

Tiongson :  I know that you’ve been rocking a 2019 version of your epic hairdo, but I saw a tweet where you may change things up to what I dub as the city slicker look from 2017.  Are you still planning to rock the slick Cole Trickle look?

Landon Cassill's no Willow Smith, but he has whipped his hair. (Photo Credit: Amy Henderson)

Landon Cassill’s no Willow Smith, but he has whipped his hair. (Photo Credit: Amy Henderson)

Cassill :  (laughs) I’m probably going back to the 2017 look pretty soon.  I need to get my hair back down shorter.  I said I was going to cut it for Daytona. And, I did get a slight haircut while I was in Las Vegas for the test.  But I need to get it back to where I don’t have to wear a hat all the time and my hair’s all flying in the wind. So, I’ll make it shorter! (laughs)

Tiongson :  To close things off for this inaugural journal entry, I realized it’s the battle of the NBC teammates!  Are you and Parker Kligerman looking into one upping each other during Speedweeks?

Cassill :  No, but we usually one up each other all of the time. (Iaughs) I love Parker and I’m so glad he’s here.  We’ll see how it goes, but I hope he makes the race!

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 is a 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 his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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