By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
For several years, Landon Cassill has been regarded as one of the hottest prospects in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but many believe he just hasn’t had the equipment to match his talent level. This offseason, Cassill swapped from Hillman Racing to the Front Row Motorsports team, and already he is showing huge signs of improvement.
Tribute Racing had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Cassill at Texas Motor Speedway about how he is enjoying life with his new team.
“I’m enjoying it,” Cassill said. “We’ve got a lot of tools, and a lot more stuff to work with than I’ve had in the past. Front Row is building some pretty nice cars right now. I’m pretty fortunate to be driving them.”
A new team means that Cassill is also working on gelling with his new crew chief Donnie Wingo. Wingo is an oldschool crew chief, who has been atop the pit box in the Sprint Cup Series for 27 years. Cassill indicated his immense level of respect for the longtime NASCAR veteran.
“I like Donnie. He’s a smart guy. He has a really good understanding of how these races play out, and what these cars need. So I feel like we are just barely scratching the surface of what these cars are capable of right now, and I’m very motivated for when we finally put a whole weekend together,” Cassill explained. “We already have a 16th place finish under our belt at Fontana, which is really the best finish these guys have had at an intermediate track, which shows how much better their program is. I’m just really excited for when we get a handle on these cars.”
Cassill, who since his days as a Hendrick Motorsports development driver, has been primarily a Chevrolet driver, credits his new teammate — Chris Buescher — for getting him acclimated to the Ford camp.
“He’s cool. It’s pretty cool to have him, because I know he’s a young driver and a rookie, and I’ve been in the Cup Series for a few years, but he’s a champion and in the Xfinity series he has won several races which is something I haven’t done. It’s neat to work with him, he’s been in the Roush system for a few years. This is my first year in the mix of the Ford and Roush camp, it’s neat to have him to lean on,” Cassill explains.
A lot of Front Row’s ability to learn more about their race cars has rested on a new technical alliance with Roush Fenway Racing, which was forged in the offseason. Cassill explained that the partnership is already paying huge dividends for the once fledgling Front Row Motorsports.
“It’s just really helping out the team, in terms of the amount of information we’re getting,” Cassill noted. “Front Row is still building our own cars, but we are building them to Roush specifications. So we are a self sufficient race team, we don’t have to rely on anybody to get a car to the racetrack which is awesome. It just shows the strength of this organization. But its cool to have a bigger brother like Roush that is funneling some information that we may not have the man power to come up with.”
Though the Front Row team as a whole has improved in performance from past seasons, Cassill still sees a place where they can improve.
“I think right now, it’s a matter of finding a kind of package and theory of the way our car is setup that will apply at all of these racetracks. If you look at the really good teams. It seems they run pretty much the same setup everywhere, and the car just repeats and it’s something that is consistent and you can end up fine tuning your setup with small adjustments as opposed to wholesaling the whole setup the night before the race,” Cassill said.
The 26-year-old driver seems to really be at peace with his career to this point, and he is fully committed to his current team. When asked how he feels about people tagging him as the greatest driver not in good equipment, Cassill immediately steps in to defend his team.
“Yeah I mean I appreciate that. It’s definitely motivating to know that it helps with the self confidence sometimes when we out run teams that have more tools or resources then we do, but you know honestly I don’t like to take a compliment at the expense of my team,” Cassill interjected. “This is the by far the best team I’ve driven for. They have a lot of cool stuff. Our team owner Bob Jenkins invests a lot of his own money into this program, and there is a lot to speak about here at Front Row. I think I’m not really worried about greener grass as I am about making these cars go fast.”
Cassill through seven races is on pace to set career-highs for average starts and average finish, and Richmond International Raceway, which is on the horizon, is a place Cassill says he could see his team competing for a top-10 finish. If Cassill and the Front Row Motorsports team continue to come together and improve, there could be some huge buzz going into 2017 for this group of racers.
Image: NASCAR Media Group