Landon Cassill has been around the NASCAR industry for nearly two decades. But now, he is getting the opportunity he‘s been dreaming of.
Over the offseason, Kaulig Racing announced Cassill as the new driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series. He replaced Jeb Burton, who won his first career race last April at Talladega Superspeedway.
For Cassill, the full-time ride in a playoff-caliber car was a few years in the making. After meeting Stephen Ehrlich, CEO of Voyager, a couple of years back at a crypto conference, the duo conceptualized sports marketing and how that could look in NASCAR. The only issue was, at the time, cryptocurrency companies weren’t mass marketing in the sports world.
Cassill worked diligently to build his network in the crypto space, believing it would go somewhere. That belief took him all the way to Kaulig Racing, one of the top teams in the Xfinity Series garage.
“From a competition side of things, it‘s like ‘OK, let‘s find a really good race team that believes in me as a driver and wants to see me succeed,” Cassill said of bringing Voyager to Kaulig Racing. “But a team that also wants to accomplish our goals and bring a quality car that would get the results that they‘re looking for.”
While competing for JD Motorsports last season, Voyager partnered with Cassill ahead of the series’ debut at Circuit of The Americas in May. The crypto company extended its partnership with the No. 4 team prior to Nashville Speedway, where it would be Cassill’s primary sponsor for 18 out of the final 19 races of the season.
Having multiple stints with JDM in the past and being stuck with underfunded teams for the majority of his career, Cassill knew this was his opportunity to get with one of the bigger teams in the Xfinity Series. The only other time he‘s had experience with a big team was being a developmental driver for Hendrick Motorsports in the late 2000s.
“Landon was brought to my attention because he had a sponsor,” Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing, said. “That was a big key. Cryptocurrency, Voyager, all of that, we wanted to dab our feet in that a little bit, and Landon had been racing for a long time. But the thing Landon does that we really enjoy here is that he takes care of his equipment.”
From afar, Cassill has watched Kaulig Racing‘s building process over its previous six years in NASCAR. Watching AJ Allmendinger succeed over the past few years has been exciting for the Iowa native. Seeing Justin Haley rise the ranks through the Kaulig system was promising, too.
But deep down, Cassill wanted to know he was worth Kaulig‘s investment. So he sat down with Rice to discuss the option of joining the team.
In the past, Cassill has been a victim of drivers coming into a team with funding. Now, for the first time in his career, he was the one that had backing behind him, allowing him to take it wherever the company wanted.
But as Cassill noted, his transition won’t be an easy one, despite his 16 years of NASCAR experience.
“You‘re trading a whole set of problems, challenges and stress for a different set of problems, challenges and stress,” he said. “It‘s not going to come any easier, but the car is going to go faster. There‘s a lot of people that I answer to and deal with on a daily basis now. I‘m representing a big company that‘s growing really fast and is investing heavily in this sport and I want to deliver for them.”
Competing with some of his prior teams, Cassill had to overcome a lot of “low-hanging fruit.” And only then could he chip away at to help improve the team’s performance.
Instead of having to worry about funding, Cassill doesn’t have to lose sleep over not having the right equipment to get the job done. That’s not his responsibility.
“There‘s the people and resources in place to continue to improve [the low-hanging fruit] and I don‘t need to do that, that‘s not my job,” he added. “My job is to be the best racecar driver I can be.”
But there is certainly an adjustment period while running towards the front of the field. Through two races, Cassill has an average finish of 26th and ended his day in a fireball last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
With other drivers making a similar transition in the past, Rice knows it may take a while for Cassill to learn the program. But if Cassill can “buy in” to Kaulig Racing, the team president believes he will get up to speed quickly.
“It‘s really hard to run fifth,” Rice stated. “When you‘re running 12th, it‘s a lot easier to make pit calls. If you make one mistake when you‘re running fifth, you‘re back to 10th. If you‘re running 15th and make five mistakes, you‘re still going to finish 15th.
“We have that conversation with Landon all of the time. It‘s a different world when you roll up in that top five.”
Over the course of his 13-year Xfinity Series career, Cassill has one career top-five finish in 178 starts, coming in the 2011 season opener with Phoenix Racing.
Not having the experience of running up front, it’s hard for Rice to project where Cassill will wind up in the field on a weekly basis.
“Zero expectations,” he said. “I tell him every time he shows up, ‘Don‘t wreck the racecars.’ Let us continuously build these things and get them faster for you and then we‘ll get better. I would love to say Landon is going to run top 10 every week when he unloads, but I can‘t see that kind of future. I hope he does, that‘s our ultimate goal.
“I feel like we‘ll find out by the time we get back from the west coast of where Landon is going to land.”
Admittedly, Cassill is going to school on how these cars run. He’s even taken a different approach in how he entered the season and how he will interact with his team.
“In a lot of ways I feel like a rookie all over again,” Cassill said. “It‘s gotten me really motivated to focus on myself as a driver and bring the best possible driver to every practice, qualifying, race, meeting that I can be.”
Continuously, there‘s going to be new tricks Cassill learns throughout the season. He‘s hoping that pays off in form of capturing a checkered flag.
“I have to go into an organization and be open minded about how do I win?” Cassill said. “How do I restart in the top five, in the first two rows on a restart? How do I nail pit road late in the race and keep track position? It‘s a new challenge more than it is about pressure.
“I‘m so thrilled to be here and for the opportunity to focus on myself as a driver in a way that I‘ve never done it before. It‘s a new challenge for me. It‘s almost like I started a new profession or new career, like I‘m changing jobs. I‘m not just going into Kaulig Racing to do the same thing I did before.”
In 513 national touring starts, Cassill has never won. In fact, he’s picked up just 18 top-10 results. Despite proving to himself in the past, he can adapt to any challenge thrown out in front of him. It’s time for him to prove to himself that he can win.
Cassill said, “There‘s no reason that I shouldn‘t be able to adapt to this type of organization and this caliber of racing, it‘s just a matter of executing on it.”
Without a doubt, though, running full time with Kaulig is Cassill’s best opportunity to get that coveted first victory.
“I know there are certain things that I can control and I‘m more focused on those things than ever before,” Cassill stated. “Myself as a driver and my mindset going into these races, my openness to ask where I can get better, where I can improve. I don‘t have to go into Kaulig Racing and fix their cars, I don‘t have to go into Kaulig Racing and update their equipment for them. That‘s what Chris does.”
Along with the full Xfinity schedule with Kaulig, Cassill will compete in 13 Cup Series races — 11 sponsored by Voyager — with Spire Motorsports. In his first time out at the Daytona 500, he placed 15th.
That’s exciting for Cassill, too, because he will learn the Next Gen car and gets to race as much as possible, something he’s not foreign to, having run the majority of the Cup and Xfinity schedules between 2013 and 2015.