It would have been easy — maybe not even a surprise — if Landon Cassill had hung up his fire suit last year.
It was admittedly a “frustrating” year for the NASCAR driver from Cedar Rapids. He never got behind the wheel of a Cup Series car in 2020 and had a ride in only four of 33 Xfinity Series races.
He found success in the eNASCAR iRacing Series when the pandemic brought all NASCAR racing — and the entire sports world — to its knees, but once “real racing” started again, Cassill was outside looking in.
He was under contract with Shepherd Racing Ventures, but sponsorship issues sidelined the team. He was on standby in case a driver tested positive for COVID-19, but was never needed.
“It was a little weird,” he said last week while visiting his parents in Phoenix, Ariz.
But Cassill isn’t ready to stop racing — or stop chasing.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Cup Series champion and a race winner,” he said. “I definitely want to chase that and continue to chase that.”
He’ll get that chance again in 2021, at least in the Xfinity Series. He was signed last month by JD Motorsports, a familiar home for the 31-year-old driver. He’s raced for Johnny Davis on and off for a number of years, including full-time from 2013 to ’15.
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“It’s wonderful, especially at JD Motorsports,” Cassill said about his new deal. “I’m excited for the year.”
While’s he excited to continue that chase, Cassill also sounded like a man who is content. He never “scrambled” to find a ride last year, wanting to help a team only if it added value.
“I’m more interested in doing things that are impactful,” he said.
He talked about life after racing — he has four children, three with his wife Katie — maybe even returning to Cedar Rapids to help in the family business (Cassill Motors) someday or doing something else in the world of NASCAR.
“I love NASCAR. I love the sport,” he said. “It has provided a great living for me and my family.
“I’m really proud of what I’ve done in this sport.”
And he should be.
Although he’s never won a race, he has 324 Cup starts since 2010, 144 Xfinity starts with a top five and 13 other top 10s. He was the 2008 Rookie of the Year in what was then called the Nationwide Series. And, despite signing with Hendrick Motorsports out of high school in 2006, he’s never raced for one of the elite teams and their elite equipment.
But he’s doing what he loves and, despite his moment of reflection last week, he’s not done yet.
He’ll race Saturday in Daytona, Fla., in the Xfinity “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300” ready to see what he can do after nearly a year away from a real racetrack.
“I’m back to what I’m good at, squeezing every ounce I can out of the racecar,” Cassill said, adding JD Motorsports has “good equipment” this year.
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Cassill will be driving the No. 4 Chevrolet, a car that accounted for two of the team’s three top-10 finishes last year. Seven of Cassill’s 14 top-10 Xfinity finishes have come while driving for Davis.
“This season, the crew aims at improving that number with even more top-10 runs,” the announcement of Cassill’s signing noted.
“Johnny and his team in Gaffney mean the world to me, and it is a great honor to be back in the No. 4 Chevy,” Cassill said in the news release. “We’ve done so much together, and look forward to accomplishing more this season. ... I can’t wait to see what we all get done together.”
Cassill said it will take a few races to “see what the cars have,” but he’s confident he can be competitive and bring the car in clean.
He’ll leave for Daytona on Thursday, practice on Friday and race on Saturday.
“I think these cars can get me 10th to 12th, 10th to 14th,” he said.
Cassill is back on the track, back with “something I can sink my teeth into.”
And that’s really all he ever wanted.
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