It’s always nice to see a familiar face return to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The #HireLandon campaign appears to have worked. In the social media era, this tactic might be one other drivers try to copy as the hunt for jobs and sponsorship becomes increasingly difficult.
— StarCom Racing (@StarcomRacing) March 19, 2018
Now that Cassill has signed on for two events with StarCom Racing, he needs to prove why the team should keep him around for the rest of the 2018 Cup season. The team isn’t playing games, letting Jeffrey Earnhardt go after a series of mediocre performances to start the year.
Since StarCom has a charter, which it is leasing from Richard Childress Racing for the year, this deal could be what Cassill has been waiting for.
Meanwhile, NASCAR continues to adjust its rule packages based on the ever-changing climate in the garage. That means more conversations are being had about what to do with teams failing inspection. The increasingly high number of pre-qualifying inspection failures is alarming, with 13 cars not even taking a qualifying lap at Auto Club Speedway this past weekend.
Sure, NASCAR’s new tech inspection system is strict. But that’s the way things should be, right?
Q: Why is it important that Landon Cassill is coming back to the Cup Series? – Jason S., Charlotte
A: Cassill is one of the most likable drivers in NASCAR. He’s honest, outgoing and shows a lot of personality.
He’s a great guy to have in the sport, and it was a little shocking none of his former sponsors opted to stick with him and move to another team for this year. While his on-track numbers decreased in 2017 from 2016, he certainly has shown he can make the most out of the little equipment he’s been given over the past few seasons.
Look back to when Cassill drove Hillman Racing’s No. 40 car in 2014 and 2015. The team shouldn’t have even been close to finishing in the top 20, but he was able to propel the organization into the upper portion of the field on multiple occasions.
With Cassill’s social media prowess, he stands out amongst many of his peers. For a mid-level driver, 75-plus thousand Twitter followers aren’t too shabby. His interaction with fans has elevated popularity, and that could certainly help the start-up team he’s with.
StarCom could use a boost, too.
Earnhardt clearly wasn’t fitting in with the team. He sits 33rd in the standings, the lowest of anyone who has run all five Cup races this year. With an average finish of 31.4, he simply wasn’t getting the job done.
Critics might say this team only ran two races last year with veteran Derrike Cope behind the wheel. But crew chief Tony Furr and Cope have high expectations after having an entire offseason to prepare the No. 00.
Cassill is a solid pick for them. However, he won’t stun anyone at Martinsville Speedway or Texas Motor Speedway. You might even see him struggle a bit since the veteran hasn’t raced since November.
So what can you expect out of him?
A nice, consistent run that will give the team a second opinion as to what it is missing in order to go fast. Martinsville is one of Cassill’s best tracks, recording five top 25s in 15 starts. A top 25 would certainly suffice for this team. With Martinsville serving as an equalizer since few aerodynamics are needed, expect him to improve upon Earnhardt’s results in this car.
Cassill just seems to get it when it comes to fan interaction. He’s the perfect fit to help build this team.
Q: Should NASCAR increase penalties for failing pre-qualifying inspection? – Victoria C., Los Angeles
A: This situation is certainly a tough one. It’s an issue NASCAR didn’t see itself getting into this year.
Teams have always failed pre-qualifying inspection. However, this trend isn’t NASCAR’s fault. Less than 40 cars on the entry list each week mean every team, even the unchartered cars are really pushing limits to the max. You can see which ones are doing so based on who fails inspection.
After the Auto Club Speedway fiasco, when 13 cars failed Cup inspection prior to qualifying, NASCAR threw down the hammer on the XFINITY Series. Any team that failed pre-qualifying inspection would have to start at the rear of the field. They would also have had to serve a pass-through penalty during the first green-flag lap once the race begins.
The strictness of this policy is debatable. Is it too much? It might be, but that’s what happens when you push the envelope a little too far. When 13 teams fail inspection to the point where they can’t even pass after qualifying begins, something needs to be done.
Starting at Martinsville this coming weekend, there will also be a new inspection process.
“Post-qualifying and pre-race inspection are going to be lumped into one major inspection,” NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We are actually kind of looking forward to that as a way forward. It would be really good if we could get it down to one major inspection for the weekend.”
This move will certainly give teams more time to prepare their cars and go through inspection multiple times if they need to. However, there won’t be many good excuses if we see some big names get nailed at Martinsville.
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