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Landon Cassill: from start and park rookie to tenured veteran

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When you weren’t paying attention, Landon Cassill became a grizzled veteran.

At 27, the native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has been around quite a while.

This year he enters his eighth season – fourth full-time – in the Cup Series. His NASCAR journey started roughly a decade ago with Hendrick Motorsports on a half-mile asphalt track in Easley, South Carolina.

“I drove a Cup car at Greenville-Pickens (Speedway),” Cassill said Tuesday at the NASCAR Media Tour. “It was Jeff Gordon’s first (Car of Tomorrow) car, so I drove one of his COT cars before he ever drove one out of the 24 shop. That was my job the first couple of years down here in North Carolina when I moved from Iowa, so I’ve been driving these cars for a long time.”

One could argue that Cassill was a founding member of NASCAR’s “youth movement” before the term existed.

On top of his testing for Hendrick, Cassill’s first NASCAR start came in 2007 in the Xfinity Series, when he was 17. Cassill’s debut was a year before Joey Logano‘s in 2008 at the age of 18. Logano also made his first three Cup Series starts that year.

Cassill’s 2010 Cup debut came with the defunct Phoenix Racing at Michigan International Speedway. Since then, Cassill has made 223 starts for seven different teams, including all of 2012 with BK Racing.

Most of his early races were “start and park” efforts. He didn’t finish a race until his 20th start in Auto Club Speedway in March 2011.

“You couldn’t even say that I was signed to a team because I was picking up jobs,” Cassill said. “So I still feel pretty young in my career I would say even though I’ve been around for a while … I’m just kind of cresting that edge of, ‘OK, we’re gonna figure out how to win races,’ because for the first few years of my Cup career it wasn’t really how are we gonna win races, it was how am I gonna get myself onto the race track and who am I gonna be doing it with.”

Cassill is now an established name in the Cup Series as he enters his second season with Front Row Motorsports.

He looks to build on a 2016 season that saw him finish 29th in the standings with season-best finishes of 11th at Talladega and 16th at Auto Club Speedway.

The highlight of last year were the 20 laps Cassill led in the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The only laps he led last year, they are the most laps Cassill’s ever led in a race. They also topped the laps led all season by Austin Dillon (17), Chris Buescher (12), Ryan Blaney (11), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (6) and  Kasey Kahne (0).

Cassill believes “hard work” and the introduction of NASCAR’s new race and points format could lead to his No. 34 team improving significantly on his results from last year.

“I think you’re gonna see us caught in the middle of some of that action over the course of the year,” Cassill said. “The teams that have to fight, we’re always gonna have to fight. We’re not magically gonna be top 10 teams. We have to work to get there. We have to work very hard to get to the top 10, but I think you’re gonna see us in the crossfire of this strategy a lot.”

In Cassill’s camp will be teammate David Ragan, a veteran of 10 full-time Cup seasons who has returned for his second stint with the team. Ragan, 31, last raced for FRM from 2012-14, plus the 2015 Daytona 500. Ragan has raced for Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and most recently, BK Racing.

“I’ve learned as much driving for small teams as I have for the larger ones,” Ragan said. “You learn different things and you see different things, but Landon is a young guy, he’s healthy, he’s got a good racing IQ, I call it. He’s a short-track racer. He’s raced a lot. He’s worked on his own race car, so it’s fun to have a teammate that’s a racer, enjoys it, gets it. He knows the business side of it, too.”

Despite having been in NASCAR for 10 years, Cassill isn’t one that views his whole life as orbiting around his racing career. He already has an eye on what’s next, whenever that comes.

“I’ve got a beautiful family,” Cassill said. “I’m a homeowner, that’s cool. I’m still racing for a living and I’m really proud that I get to do that and I’m proud that I get to be here, and, honestly, I’m excited for the rest of my career and then whatever my second career may be, whether it’s selling used cars with my dad or playing a role in the NASCAR industry somehow. I feel like being a NASCAR driver is stage one of my life.”

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NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Richmond International Raceway

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NASCAR makes its first visit of the year to Richmond International Raceway this weekend as the Cup and Xfinity Series compete on the .75-mile track.

Cup teams will hold the Toyota Owners 400 while Xfinity teams gear up for the ToyotaCares 250.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for both races.

Cup Series – Toyota Owners 400

There are 38 cars on the entry list for the Cup race.

Last year, Carl Edwards won this race with a bump-and-run on teammate Kyle Busch on the final turn. Busch had led 78 laps in the race before Edwards, who led 151 laps, powered his way to the victory.

Denny Hamlin won the fall race from the pole after leading 189 laps.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity Series – ToyotaCares 250

Five Cup drivers are among the 42 cars entered into the race, including: Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson.

The race is the third Dash 4 Cash race of the year, meaning Cup drivers with five years or more experience are not eligible to compete in the race.

Last year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won this race after leading 128 of 149 laps. Kyle Busch won the fall race after leading 197 of 250 laps.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR, sports world reacts to Dale Earnhardt Jr. retirement announcement

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Tuesday morning’s news that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire from NASCAR at the end of the 2017 season has sent earthquake-like shock waves throughout the sports world, as well as the social media universe.

Earnhardt will formally announce his retirement at a press conference later this afternoon, which will be covered thoroughly by us at NASCAR Talk.

Here’s some of the top posts from social media on Junior’s bombshell announcement (we’ll be updating throughout the day, so please check back):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. retiring from NASCAR after 2017 season

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced Tuesday morning that he is retiring from NASCAR after this season.

In a release from Hendrick Motorsports, the team said the 14-time most popular driver will discuss the decision at a news conference today at 3 p.m.

Here is the release from the team.

CONCORD, N.C. (April 25, 2017) – After 18 seasons and more than 600 races behind the wheel, Dale Earnhardt Jr. will bring his NASCAR Cup Series driving career to a close at the conclusion of 2017. Today, he shared the news with members of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team.

The fan favorite and two-time Daytona 500 champion will discuss his decision in a press conference this afternoon. He will be joined by Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, for whom Earnhardt has driven since 2008. The two first met about the driver’s decision on March 29.

Earnhardt, who will turn 43 in October, made his first career Cup Series start on May 30, 1999, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since then, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has captured 26 points-paying Cup race wins and been voted by fans as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver a record 14 consecutive years. He has qualified for the NASCAR playoffs eight times.

Now in the midst of his 18th full-time season at the elite Cup level, Earnhardt made his 600th career series start on March 26 at Fontana, California. He will compete in his final NASCAR Cup Series race on Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports will announce plans for its 2018 team alignment at a later date.

After missing the last 18 races of the 2016 season while recovering from concussion symptoms, Earnhardt returned for the season-opening Daytona 500. He repeatedly has said he would take about two months to decide if he wanted to continue driving beyond 2017, the final year of his contract at Hendrick Motorsports.

Earnhardt finished 38th Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway, his fourth finish of 30th or worse in the first eight races of the 2017 season. He fell to 24th in the Cup points standings.

The 14-time most popular driver finished 38th in Monday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, crashing on a Lap 218 restart after an apparent problem with his oil cooler under caution. He lost four spots in the rankings and is 50 points behind the current cutoff for qualiyfing for the 16-driver playoff on points.

Earnhardt hinted the news was coming in an early morning tweet Tuesday.

NASCAR America: Jimmie Johnson’s patience propels him to victory lane in Food City 500

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Jimmie Johnson is known for his patience behind the wheel. Where other drivers may get too hot under the collar and over-react, Johnson is typically cool as a cucumber — and that’s helped lead him to many of his 82 career NASCAR Cup wins.

That patience once again played out in Johnson’s win Monday in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, only his second career triumph (and first in seven years) at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

On Monday’s NASCAR America, Greg Biffle and Kyle Petty discussed Johnson’s patience throughout Monday’s race.