Auto Racing

Landon Cassill finding success in virtual NASCAR events

Cedar Rapids driver was fifth in Sunday's televised iRacing event

Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill in his
Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill in his “rig” during an eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race. (Landon Cassill Twitter)
/

Landon Cassill had been spending a lot of time in Iowa recently.

That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it’s also not ideal for a guy who still harbors dreams of racing — and winning — in the NASCAR Cup Series.

This has been a rough 2020 season for Cassill, who lost his Cup ride with StarCom Racing in the offseason and has gotten behind the wheel only three times with Shepherd Racing Ventures in the Xfinity Series, all “start and park” scenarios.

“For me, in my driving career, there’s been a lot of ups and downs,” Cassill said this week from his home in Charlotte, N.C. “I’ve had to fight for everything.”

He’s still fighting and — in an odd twist of fate — has found success in NASCAR’s newest venture — virtual racing.

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down all sports — from high school to professional — NASCAR has given its fans, and TV partners, an alternative. The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has held two events, getting some of the top names from the Cup Series to compete.

Cassill, a 30-year-old Cedar Rapids native, finished 12th the first week and was fifth in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 125.

“It’s really crazy that our sport has had to pivot and provide this opportunity for some entertainment,” Cassill said. “This is kind of real racing. ... It felt like a real top-five finish. I feel like it should feel like a real one.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

iRacing is the “world’s premier motorsport racing simulation. iRacing puts you in the driver’s seat by allowing members to experience today’s newest form of competitive motorsport: virtual racing,” according to the iRacing website. “iRacing is a fun, inexpensive and highly-competitive way for race fans and gamers to break a sweat by braking hard at the apex, while overcoming head-to-head racing challenges usually reserved for professional racers.”

Last week’s race drew Cup stars like Kurt and Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Bubba Wallace, as well as the retired Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Cassill beat them all.

“I’m really proud to be part of it,” he said.

Timmy Hill won Sunday’s race, using a “virtual ‘bump-and-run’ with three laps remaining,” according to the NASCAR Wire Service, to knock William Byron from the lead.

The 27-year old Hill has 674 iRacing victories, but this was different.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” he said in the NASCAR story. “Very exciting times for us because we just don’t get the recognition on a normal basis. To be on an even playing field is excellent. To be on this platform, the Cup platform, is exciting.”

Like Hill, Cassill is an iRacing veteran. He hosted an event nine years ago that attracted 200 drivers.

“I’ve had a good relationship with iRacing since day one,” he said.

He was invited to participate in these virtual races by Earnhardt Jr., as well as iRacing officials.

Unlike “real world” racing, where the big teams with big budgets have a huge advantage, iRacing is an equalizer.

“We all have the same car ... no unfair advantage,” Cassill said. “It really comes down to effort and time and training.”

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Cassill said the setup for iRacing can vary from the extravagant — like Denny Hamlin’s $40,000 “rig” that includes a high tech seat with motion and three monitors — to a simple gaming computer, monitor, steering wheel and peddles.

“Right there you have the exact setup that Tommy Hill had,” Cassill said, noting his rig, which he is borrowing costs about $20,000 and “is smack-dab in between the two.”

Many drivers use iRacing and other simulators as training tools. Young drivers, Cassill said, can use it to test the “next level.”

“It can teach you the fundamentals of racing,” he said. “It’s not apples to apples ... but the motions you're making in iRacing are the same you make in a real car.”

Cassill, who has started 324 Cup races since his debut in 2010, hopes his recent success puts “me back on the radar” with sponsors and Cup teams. He was called “one of the best drivers in the garage to build a team around” by frontstretch.com.

“ ... Don’t let his meager stat-line fool you; Cassill is a very solid driver that keeps equipment clean and has shown that he can compete for Cup wins at super speedways when in the right equipment,” the story noted.

“For the real world, my schedule is really uncertain,” he said. “It’s hard going to the racetrack, starting and stopping. But it gets me in a car so I can stay sharp.

“It’s an uphill battle.”

One thing Cassill and his wife, Katie, were able to do on a recent trip home was show off their new son, Arlo. Yes, race fans, he is named after the late Arlo Becker, who Cassill said taught him a lot about racing.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“He was a polarizing figure,” Cassill said of Becker. “ ... a legend at Hawkeye Downs Speedway.”

Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.