Landon Cassill is a NASCAR journeyman, always willing to hop in a car to make that respective team better. This year, he‘s doing that once again with JD Motorsports.
Nope, it‘s not Cassill‘s first, or second, or third stint with JDM, rather it‘s his fourth.
The pairing began early in 2013, when JDM team owner Johnny Davis called on Cassill to join the team after inexperienced driver Daryl Harr was struggling at the Xfinity level.
Neither Davis or Cassill have forgotten how the two originally got linked up.
“I called him and said, ‘Hey, we need some help,” Davis recently told Jayski.com “We needed someone to get in the car with some good seat time and knowledge to help us get the car setup. Landon got in the thing, was fast in it and we got it fast. “That‘s how our relationship started.
“We‘ll never forget that for each other, and I think we‘ll always be there for each other forever.”
That same year, Cassill was running the majority of the Cup Series schedule for Circle Sport Racing in the No. 33 entry. While not being ultra competitive in Cup (with a best finish of 23rd), the Iowa native was happy the opportunity with JDM popped up. It meant he had a purpose on the track.
“As a driver, it was a really good supplement to the rest of what I was doing while racing full time in the Cup Series,” he said. “It just makes a lot of sense to get that extra track time and run in the Xfinity Series, and it‘s also a different race and different type of race. I think it just [made me] better.”
Cassill returned to JDM in 2014 to run the full Xfinity schedule and, at the time, put together the best season for one of Davis‘ drivers in team history. That year, switching over to the No. 01 Chevrolet, he scored three top-10 finishes and placed 12th in the championship standings. Unfortunately, he had seven DNFs to go along with his standout performances.
The following year, Cassill returned to JDM for 29 races, scoring two top 10s. But after that season, it wasn‘t until 2018 that he returned to the team for three races. Six more races came together in 2019, where he put together two top-10 efforts.
Fast forward to the beginning of the 2021 season, Cassill is coming off a year in which he competed in just four races — all start-and-parks for Shepherd Racing Ventures. All the while, he was a relief driver for both GMS Racing at the Camping World Truck Series level and JTG Daugherty Racing in Cup in case one of those team‘s drivers had to sit out a race due to COVID-19.
With additional down time, Cassill and Parker Kligerman created ERacr, which is a premier esports event organization and sim racing community. The league is putting up real money and prizes for its events, hoping to bridge the gap between the real and virtual worlds. The duo also unveiled a fantasy game earlier this month where viewers on Twitch could set fantasy lineups before and during the races, answer pop-up questions about the race and earn points.
But aside from delving deep into the eracing world, 2020 was a mental grind for Cassill on the professional side. It was the fewest number of NASCAR races he‘d competed in since 2009.
“That was really tough,” Cassill said. “I feel like I‘ve made a lot of NASCAR starts in my career, and by no means am I done racing or think that I‘m doing racing. But also, I don‘t really feel like I want to go out there just for the sake of racing. I don‘t need just one or two more Cup starts just to add to my resume. I feel like I want to get into projects that I can sink my teeth into.
“I tend to gravitate towards team owners that need me and want me a part of their team. I‘m not the type of guy that gets into a bidding war with his sponsors trying to rent a ride.”
But over the offseason, Davis reached out to Cassill, as he has every offseason for the past eight years. The goal was to have something pan out for the 2021 season, as JDM had half of its driver lineup filled with young racecar drivers in Colby Howard and Ryan Vargas.
Ultimately, Davis was able to strike a deal to have Cassill back full time for JDM.
“I wanted him back in there, driving one of our cars,” Davis said. “We (Johnny Davis Motorsports) haven‘t run as good as we should be running, and I figured Landon could help us figure everything out. He‘s a book of knowledge. I feel like we needed a mature driver that had made all the mistakes to help groom these young [guys] and help us stay on track and not get off base.”
Helping race teams isn‘t something Cassill is foreign to. Not only is that how his first tenure started with JDM, but he qualified ninth for Shepherd Racing Ventures in 2019 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He followed that up with a 15th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway when the team had enough sponsorship to run the full race. That was the best finish for the No. 89 car since 2009.
It‘s just part of Cassill‘s MO.
“I feel like the best thing for me to do is lead by example,” Cassill said. “If I‘m called to be a leader then really, it‘s to lead by example and be there for these guys if they need help. Colby and Ryan are plenty capable, and so I know I would love to help them as much as I can but they‘re awfully talented on their own.”
It‘s no surprise that through the first six events of the season, Cassill has performed the best of the four JDM drivers. At the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, the No. 4 car was running towards the front late, but got caught up in an incident, placing 23rd. He followed that up with consecutive top 20s, including a season-best 12th on the Daytona road course. This past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Cassill finished a respectable 14th.
What might be a tad surprising is Cassill is hovering around the playoff bubble with JDM equipment, in a deep Xfinity field. Currently, he ranks 15th in points, 23 markers behind 12th (Riley Herbst) and is within 22 points of two JR Motorsports cars.
Davis, who doesn‘t believe Cassill needs to prove anything this season, is happy with the performance of the No. 4 car, but from a team-wide perspective, is disappointed with the first six races.
“We‘re behind and we‘re getting going,” he said. “Landon is the guy that can help us get back to where we were.
“[Landon is] very underrated. He has a lot of talent. The problem is so many people are overrated and have got money, and Landon was able to put some things together to help make it work for him to come back this year. But some of these kids are coming up with so much money that they can get into whatever they want to.”