Landon Cassill relaxed, ready for Daytona 500

Cedar Rapids native going to use watching NASCAR Xfinity Series race as final preparation

Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill (34) drafts with teammate David Ragan (38) during final practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (Jeremiah Davis/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill (34) drafts with teammate David Ragan (38) during final practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (Jeremiah Davis/The Gazette)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With Daytona 500 final practice wrapped up, any doubt as to whether or not Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill was relaxed and ready for the biggest race in the sport was erased if anyone spotted Front Row Motorsports teammate David Ragan’s interview with FS1.

As Ragan talked with the Fox reporter about his final practice session — in front of Cassill’s No. 34 team hauler — Cassill poked his head through the sliding glass doors directly behind Ragan and the camera, making faces and photobombing his new teammate.

It took a few people behind the camera (and probably a producer in the reporter’s ear) for them to notice, but everyone got a chuckle out of it.

The pair of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers followed that up with a conversation about how and when to work together on Sunday. It was the last little bit on a final day of preparation for the Great American Race.

“We mostly talked about the context of how to work together tomorrow and where that’s going to be important and where it’s not as important,” Cassill said. “It seems like cars just run so well when you’ve got a teammate with you. So for us, it’s just a matter of doing that at the right time so we can still drive independently and make our own decisions but still work as a team.

“He kind of knows the deal. I feel like him and I are on similar agendas, so it works out well, I think.”

Ragan got a win for FRM in 2013 at Talladega working primarily with then-teammate David Gilliland, so when Cassill said Ragan “knows the deal,” he doesn’t just mean they both have to work together.

Cassill said it’s kind of pointless to pursue deals or drafting plans with drivers from other teams at this point because they’ve all got their own agendas, too, so it’s important he and Ragan are on the same page.

Final practice saw Cassill run just 17 laps — all in a pack of a dozen or so cars, and he ended the session 11th of 28 cars who took times. He said after Friday’s practice they wanted to see what the changes would do in the pack, and after the few runs he made, he feels like crew chief Donnie Wingo and Co. have a good plan of attack for the start of the race Sunday.

“I thought it was OK. We changed our left front bump stop. We felt like the second run the splitter was just a little bit higher, which might’ve had more mechanical grip, but it might’ve been slower aero-wise,” Cassill said. “I think we’re going to go with what we had the first run. It just looked lower, flatter and more consistent and still handled pretty decent. There’s some rear shock stuff we feel we can save for (Sunday) if we decide we want to tweak on those. We’ll see what we’ve got.”

The last peg of preparation for the Daytona 500 for Cassill actually will come out of Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. The addition of the three stages for each race, and the subsequent championship points that are awarded for first through 10th places likely will change the aggressiveness of drivers toward the end of those segments.

Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series event, won by Kaz Grala, saw wild ends to each stage — including the first one, in which fellow Iowan Brett Moffitt got wrecked from the lead coming to the end of Stage 1.

Cassill said it’s an important peg to how the Daytona 500 (1 p.m., FOX) will play out, but that what happens in the Xfinity race likely will be a better gauge for what to expect Sunday.

“What we saw (Friday) night would tell you it’s going to be pretty wild. So it’s really hard to say. Some of these guys might really want those 10 points,” Cassill said. “I’m going to watch the Xfinity race and see how these drivers act. They’ve got a lot more experience than what we saw (Friday) night (in the Camping World Truck Series race). I’ll see their mindset in regards to the stages. I think that will kind of lead a good direction on how people will drive tomorrow. I’ll probably make my decision on how I’ll race based on that.”

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