Feature NASCAR Cup Series

Bristol Favors Surprise Contenders

Restrictor plate tracks have often been known as the great equalizers in NASCAR. The unpredictability that often defines races at Daytona and Talladega provides an opportunity for smaller teams to succeed.

Bristol Motor Speedway may not immediately come to mind as a track in this category, but it has produced similar characteristics in its races through recent years.

Dating back to August 2013, many competitors have posted breakout performances at “The Last Great Colosseum.”

Striking a balance between patience and aggressiveness is critical at short tracks and road courses. This allowed road racing aces Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose to perform well at Bristol. In the 2013 night race, they finished third and eighth respectively.

In March 2014, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. captured his best career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finish of second while Aric Almirola placed third, and Ambrose had another strong run and ended up fifth.

Stenhouse Jr. again impressed many in the next two events, finishing sixth in August 2014 and fourth in April 2015. Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick also performed well in April, placing eighth and ninth respectively.

One year ago, smaller organizations thrived at Bristol. Front Row Motorsports’ Landon Cassill led 20 laps, and BK Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto scored the team’s highest result in its five years of existence by finishing sixth.

Roush Fenway Racing found more success last season as Trevor Bayne placed fifth in April and Stenhouse finished runner-up in August. Chris Buescher also ran well in August, coming home fifth in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford that shares a technical alliance with RFR.

Many of these performances marked career highs for the competitors, attesting to Bristol’s ability to favor surprise contenders.

RFR has struggled in recent seasons, but Bristol has often shown promise for the organization. Bayne’s top-five performance last April stood as his best non-plate track finish of the season, and his finest performance since winning the 2011 DAYTONA 500.

Bristol is Stenhouse Jr.’s best track on the schedule as he holds an average finish of 10.6. Of his eight career top-five performances, three have come at the track, and in his last six Bristol starts, he has posted four top-10 finishes.

A victory would be monumental for RFR. Bristol may present their best opportunity to achieve this feat and break their winless streak that dates back to Carl Edwards’ win at Sonoma in 2014.

Along with the classic short-track racing atmosphere, the unknown factor playing a larger role adds intrigue heading into the Food City 500. Whether its RFR or another small team, surprise contenders may make some noise on Sunday.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Front Row Buys BK Racing Charter; Leases to TriStar

A day after Front Row Motorsports revealed the acquisition of one of its Charters by TriStar Motorsports, the organization has bought one of BK Racing’s two Charters for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

BKR’s No. 83 Charter now belongs to TriStar though because FRM is leasing it to the new Cup Series No. 72 team. BKR will compete in the upcoming season with only one Charter for the No. 23, which will be driven by Joey Gase and Gray Gaulding.

FRM’s two full-time cars will both remained guaranteed into all 36 points events for Landon Cassill and David Ragan because both entries are chartered. At the end of the 2017 season, TriStar’s Charter lease will end, and it will be returned to FRM, giving the Ford organization three Charters for 2018.

As the season gets closer and closer, the MENCS field is becoming more and more clear. To avoid any confusion, here is a list of all 36 Charter teams that will be guaranteed into every race this season:

  1. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing
  2. 2 Team Penske
  3. 3 Richard Childress Racing
  4. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing
  5. 5 Hendrick Motorsports
  6. 6 Roush Fenway Racing
  7. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing
  8. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing
  9. 13 Germain Racing
  10. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing
  11. 15 Premium Motorsports
  12. 17 Roush Fenway Racing
  13. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing
  14. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing
  15. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing
  16. 21 Wood Brothers Racing
  17. 22 Team Penske
  18. 23 BK Racing
  19. 24 Hendrick Motorsports
  20. 27 Richard Childress Racing
  21. 31 Richard Childress Racing
  22. 32 GoFas Racing
  23. 33 Circle Sport-The Motorsports Group
  24. 34 Front Row Motorsports
  25. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing
  26. 38 Front Row Motorsports
  27. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing
  28. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing
  29. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports
  30. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing
  31. 48 Hendrick Motorsports
  32. 72 TriStar Motorsports
  33. 77 Furniture Row Racing
  34. 78 Furniture Row Racing
  35. 88 Hendrick Motorsports
  36. 95 Leavine Family Racing



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Ragan Returning, Cassill Remaining With Front Row

After stints between Joe Gibbs Racing, the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing, and BK Racing, David Ragan is returning to Front Row Motorsports to drive the No. 38 in 2017.

Landon Cassill, who drove the No. 38 in 2016, is remaining with FRM but will pilot the No. 34, which was driven by Chris Buescher this past season. Buescher will drive a second entry for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2017.

Ragan last raced for FRM in the 2015 Daytona 500, where he finished 17th. He was then summoned to fill in at JGR for Kyle Busch, who was injured in the XFINITY Series race the day before the 500, in the No. 18 for nine races. Then he moved to MWR’s No. 55, which needed a driver after Brian Vickers was sidelined for ongoing blood clot issues, at Kansas Speedway and stayed there for the rest of the year. He spent all of 2016 at BKR driving the No. 23 Toyota.

Ragan spent three full seasons with FRM from 2012 to 2014 and won in the No. 34 at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013, which was an enormous upset and the first victory for the mid-tier Premier Series organization.

The No. 34 grabbed the checkered flag again in 2016 when Buescher won the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway in August. Buescher made the Chase and became to the first ever FRM driver to do so.

Cassill, entering his seventh full-time season, is still in search for his first win. The 2016 campaign was his best season in NASCAR’s top series after finishing 29th in the standings, averaging a 26th-place finish, and leading a career-high 20 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway in the spring.

FRM will continue its technical alliance with Ford team Roush Fenway Racing and its engine program with Roush Yates Engines for the upcoming season.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Landon Cassill and Snapchat: A Perfect Fit

CONCORD, N.C. – Landon Cassill will carry a unique partnership on the hood of his Front Row Motorsports car on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The bright yellow front end on the No. 38 machine features the Snapchat emblem, marking the first time a major social media platform has been promoted on a Sprint Cup Series car.

What may be even more unique than the partnership itself is the way NASCAR and Cassill announced it. An avid Snapchat user himself, Cassill took to the NASCAR Snapchat account and revealed the paint scheme at the FRM shop on Tuesday. He even promised free tacos for his Snapchat followers if he pulls into Victory Lane in the Bank of America 500.

“The promotion is just to focus on NASCAR’s Live Story on Snapchat this weekend,” Cassill told POPULAR SPEED.

Sunday will feature social content from the opening race of the Round of 12 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Snapchat through its Live Story.

The Live Story will allow those in attendance to submit pictures and video Snaps to provide a live look at the event and share the NASCAR experience with the world. The chosen Snaps will be compiled into a video stream that will be available for 24 hours to Snapchat’s 100 million plus daily users.

“There’s no experience in sports quite like attending a NASCAR race, especially during the Chase,” NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer Jill Gregory said when the Live Story announcement was made in August.

“Snapchat’s Live Story coverage provides young audiences with a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the real Chase race experience, through the lens of our fans and drivers,” Gregory continued.

Cassill is among the most popular and active NASCAR drivers on social media. His Snapchat Story often includes videos of his young son Beckham or his catchphrase “38, nice.”

As to why Cassill finds success reaching the social media audience, especially the younger crowd on Snapchat, he believes it’s just who he is.

“I guess I fit into that group of people and I just use it because I’m a kid of computers, the internet, and social media,” Cassill said. “It just seemed like a good fit for sure.”

It marks the third time in 2016 a NASCAR race has been featured on Snapchat’s Live Story. The Daytona 500 in February and GEICO 500 at Talladega in May also shared Snapchat content from the event to the worldwide audience.

However, this is the first time Snapchat has been on a car, and Cassill finds that different, but cool. 

“It’s pretty neat,” Cassill said. “It’s definitely a new thing I’m pretty excited about it.”

In addition to Charlotte, the Sprint Cup Series championship race at Homestead-Miami will be featured on Live Story next month.

The Bank of America 500 Live Story will still run on Sunday following Saturday’s postponed event. The Snapchat app can be found on iOS and Android, and Cassill encourages fans to check it out.

“Definitely get on Snapchat and take a look at the Live Story.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

The Questions GQ Didn’t Ask Landon Cassill

You won’t see Landon Cassill accepting the “Best Dressed in NASCAR” award at the Sprint Cup Series championship celebration this year in Las Vegas. It isn’t part of the format.

But, maybe it should be.

After all GQ, the swanky fashion magazine, dubbed the driver of the No. 38 Ford for Front Row Motorsports “NASCAR’s Most Stylish Driver” in their latest edition.

Yesterday, POPULAR SPEED had a chance to talk with the fitness enthusiast (upon his return from a 2-hour bike ride) about being interviewed about his flair for fashion as opposed to his prowess behind the wheel.

PS: GQ? Did you ever imagine that, during the course of career as a NASCAR driver, you’d be summoned to discuss your fashion prowess?

LC: “Not really. I don’t necessarily seek out fashion attention. I just like to dress well, especially in our business where it’s so conservative. I don’t want to stand out too much, then it looks like I’m overdoing it.”

You’re not overdoing pal. You look great.

PS: So, when you’re attending a NASCAR function and enjoying the company of your peers – both men and women – do you ever look around the room and say to yourself, “What were they thinking?”

LC: “All the time. But it’s important to respect the fact that not everyone likes to express themselves through their clothes, so I don’t really judge people by what they’re wearing if they’re not fitted. They may not even care. It’s when they think they know what’s up that makes it fun to give them a hard time. Nobody is perfect.”

Cassill wouldn’t offer up any names or examples. And, quite frankly, we didn’t have the nerve to ask. But we were curious about the economics associated with looking good.

PS: What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a pair of jeans?

LC: I’ll pass on that (question). I’m sure the money I’ve spent on clothes as a hobby is no more ridiculous than the money someone else spends on a different hobby.”

He’s got a point. Actor Nicolas Cage collects homes. In fact, he recently purchased a castle (that’s true, and an unintentional play on words) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. collects wrecked race cars that he keeps in his yard.

So, it’s safe to say that an expensive pair of jeans, a nice shirt and some fashionable shoes isn’t absurdly over-the-top.

Contact John Milner at


The full article can be found at


VIDEO: Groundhog Interrupts XFINITY Practice

The first XFINITY Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway came to a halt on Friday after a groundhog scampered onto the backstretch of the racing surface.

NASCAR red-flagged practice as track officials and safety workers tried to catch it, which took two attempts and about 10 minutes.

In the first effort to capture it, the animal juked a shovel-wielding track worker, reminiscent of a wide receiver shaking off a cornerback in the NFL. A second worker trapped it under a bucket, but the groundhog wasn’t giving up. As three men carried it in a bucket, the rodent jumped out and ran, but one of them scooped it into a barrel a few minutes later, ending the on-track ruckus.

Friday’s practice wasn’t the first time wildlife interfered with on-track activities:

• In August 2015, a rabbit stopped Camping World Truck Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway. Track workers were unsuccessful in catching the animal, but the practice was resumed after it entered the track infield.

• In March 2015, two squirrels were spotted at Phoenix International Raceway during XFINITY Series practice. One squirrel was escorted to safety while the other met its demise after an encounter with the front bumper of Landon Cassill’s car.

• During a Cup race at Atlanta in August 2014, a squirrel ran in front of Kevin Harvick’s car during green-flag racing. Harvick, who was the race leader at the time, told his team he thought a cat ran across Turn 3.

• During the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2015, Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa nearly hit a groundhog before it ran off the track and under a safety wall.

The groundhog did not post an official lap.



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

NASCAR Cup Series

Racing Less Equals More for Landon Cassill

LONG POND, PA. — Landon Cassill has focused solely on his No. 38 Sprint Cup team this year and hasn’t raced double duty since the season’s start.

That strategy appears to be paying dividends.

For the past two seasons, Cassill ran the No. 01 for JD Motorsports in the XFINITY Series and the No. 40 for Hillman Racing on the Cup side. Before 2016, he signed with Front Row Motorsports, replacing David Gilliland in the car.

Cassill, who is racing for points in the Cup Series for the first time since 2012, is 27th in the standings, and his average finishing position through the first 13 races is 24.5. Both statistics find the driver on a path toward a career-best season.

“It’s a function of the team,” Cassill told POPULAR SPEED. “We’re just a better race team, and we’re capable of so much better performance.”

The 26-year-old says his years of full-time racing with BK Racing and Hillman have given him the experience needed to improve his performance. FRM has never had a driver finish a season in the top 25 in points, and Cassill sits only 13 points behind that spot, which is currently occupied by Clint Bowyer.

“It’s definitely a goal of the team to be 25th in standings or better,” Cassill said. “But I mean, I want to win a race, that’s my goal.”

Cassill is enjoying the less-rigorous race schedule but misses running in the XFINITY Series. He said he wouldn’t want to run full-time in both series this year, but would feel comfortable with a part-time job on Saturdays.

“As far as not running XFINITY, I just get a little bit more down time on the weekends,” Cassill said. “At times, I like the time off, but I definitely would love to run 10 or 15 XFINITY races.”

Cassill has certainly progressed since 2010, the year he made his Cup debut. Throughout 2010 and 2011, he ran with numerous race teams as a start-and-park but has established himself as a respected competitor among the garage.

His career-best finish is fourth place at Talladega in October 2014, and earlier this season he led 20 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway — a career high for a single race.

“I’ve just had more experience than I did years ago, and I think that helps every driver,” Cassill said. “I’ve worked with more people and different types of people, and learned how to deal with different personalities.”

With Chris Buescher, who is under contract with Roush Fenway Racing, joining FRM to drive the No. 34 car, the team has received help from RFR to improve performance. Cassill said the team has been like a “big brother” to FRM by sharing resources and information, but they’re not entirely reliant on the more prominent organization.

“We’re still self-sufficient, and we still put our own cars on the racetrack,” Cassill said. “I think that’s an extremely valuable piece in having a quality, long-term program. Our owner, Bob Jenkins, has shown that he wants to win races and run well. He understands what it takes and is smart about it. You don’t see him just show up and sink a bunch of money into a team.”

NASCAR Cup Series

Strong Bristol Performance Shines Spotlight on Cassill

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Landon Cassill was reflecting on his battle for the lead with Carl Edwards during the Food City 500 when an upset Ty Dillon walked over to interrupt.

Dillon was looking for an explanation over their contact in Turn 2 on Lap 461, which sent him into a half spin and damaged the left side of his Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet. At time, both drivers had top 10 runs going, but Dillon ultimately finished 25th while Cassill wound up 22nd.

“Who’s your spotter, man? You weren’t even close,” Dillon said.

Dillon and Cassill walked back into the garage area and hashed things over, with Cassill emerging from the hauler afterward and admitting he made a move that was over his head. However, he felt there was no need to apologize.

“That’s just racing at Bristol,” Cassill told POPULAR SPEED. “But the move was definitely over my head, and I know that going into it. I just thought I had a shot at making it.”

In a release issued by the team after the race, Dillon said of the contact, “I don’t know what more I could have done there.”

The tangle was the only blemish on the day for Cassill.

The 26-year-old had a remarkable run going for Front Row Motorsports, which caught the attention of many because of the time he spent near the front. Although his finish wasn’t reflective of his performance, Cassill led 20 laps when his No. 38 Snap Fitness team decided to stay out on older tires just past the event’s halfway point.

Cassill not only restarted the race in the lead, but was able to battle the dominant – and eventual winner – Carl Edwards on the outside before ultimately giving way on Lap 282.

“That was the best our car was even on 20 lap tires. I felt like if I wanted to race him harder, I could have but it was the best our car had been all day,” Cassill said. “It was cool to lead laps. It was cool to legitimately run in the top 10 like that after we stayed using a little bit of strategy.

“I just hate it didn’t work out; it’s part of racing at Bristol I guess.”

After losing the lead, Cassill managed to keep his Ford amongst the top 10. Even better, on his next few pit stops, Cassill’s team did their part by getting him off pit road near where he entered it. Cassill called his group of guys “amazing” and joked he didn’t want to say where Front Row had assembled them.

“I feel like our jackman is a tremendous leader who sets a really good tempo on a pit stop,” Cassill said. “I think the jackman is the most important man in a pit stop, and ours sets a great tempo, and I’m just really proud of them. They busted off really good stops today.”

Sunday’s finish was Cassill’s second best of the season and fifth top-25 in eight starts. This year marks his first with Front Row Motorsports, who realigned their program in the offseason. They downsized from three to two full-time cars between Cassill and rookie Chris Buescher.

Buescher also had a solid showing and finished one spot ahead of Cassill in 21st. When laying out the season, both Cassill and Buescher expressed high hopes of being able to compare their program with that of Roush Fenway Racing, whom they share a technical alliance. All three Roush cars finished inside the top 16.

Bristol was just a stepping-stone, however. Cassill holds the organization’s lone top-20 finish this season, a 16th at Fontana, and sits 27th in points.

“The short tracks are good tracks for us. This is a purebred Front Row car; this is one of the cars they ran on short tracks last year and ran well with,” Cassill said of the program. “We’re able to build cars to a Roush-spec at the rest of the racetracks, so as the season progresses we need to continue to build a quality piece.

“Runs like today are good, but there’s definitely a lot to improve on and a lot of speed to find yet.”



The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 


Underrated Prospect: The Case for Landon Cassill

By Matt Weaver — @LandonCassill isn’t the most hyped prospect in all of NASCAR, at least not anymore, but maybe he should be.

With several mid-level rides potentially becoming available during Silly Season over the next few months, teams like Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports ought to give Cassill serious consideration as both a win-now and long-term solution.

But how is it that Cassill, he of the 145 career Sprint Cup Series starts, can still be considered a prospect? And what about the notion that he is merely a back-marker given his place on the grid most Sunday afternoons?

Answering those questions and justifying why Cassill remains such a valued commodity within the garage likely requires a bit of a history lesson.

Cassill was once a hot shoe Super Late Model prospect in the Midwest where he was a frequent contender in both the ASA National Tour and CRA Super Series. While there, he caught the attention of General Motors and was ultimately signed by Hendrick Motorsports as a development driver in December 2006.

Before he could advance through the ranks with HMS and JR Motorsports, the credit crunch hit the driver development programs hardest in NASCAR, and the funding dried up for young aces like Cassill. Since then, he has driven for a variety of owners, ranging from James Finch to Larry Gunselman and Randy Moss, impressing at every step with his remarkable ability to qualify in the field and take care of his modest equipment.

Some of his most impressive work has come over the past two seasons, taking Johnny Davis’ JD Motorsports squad in the Nationwide Series from a 20th-place operation to a perennial top-10 threat, week-in and week-out.

As if that alone didn’t make Cassill the best free agent option available, he’s only 25-years-old, boasting a combined 238 career national touring starts across the Camping World Truck Series, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

Cassill is in a comfortable spot in his career right now, feeling the satisfaction associated with being a catalyst for two growing teams at Hillman-Circle Sport Racing and JD Motorsports. But Cassill has the potential to be so much more if given the opportunity.

The same attributes that make him the go-to test and development driver across the board are also the innate abilities that separate champions from winners.

While prospects like Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher rightfully received a bulk of the praise for their bright future in the sport, there is no other youngster that provides the same combination of youth, drive and ability that Cassill provides.

Sprint Cup contenders are on the clock and one of the most able-bodied talents of recent memory is still available for the picking.

NASCAR Cup Series

AJ Allmendinger, Landon Cassill Flourish as Dega Underdogs

By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, Ala.) — For underdog drivers AJ Allmendinger and Landon Cassill, Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway was about seizing opportunity.

Neither driver entered the weekend as a favorite, even by restrictor plate standards where virtually anyone can get to Victory Lane. Both drivers missed the two big accidents of the afternoon and contended for the win, ultimately posting top-12s at NASCAR’s biggest speedway.

For Allmendinger, the result was his second straight top-10 finish and third overall, leaving some in the garage to believe that his team shouldn’t be considered an underdog at all but rather a legitimate Chase contender. But the driver isn’t focused on the Chase, Allmendinger wants to keep the momentum going deep into the summer, letting the results take care of themselves.

“Everybody wants to keep jumping because we are close enough to the Chase that people keep talking about it,” Allmendinger said after the race. “I don’t worry about the Chase. If we are good enough by the point of race 20 I’ll start worrying about it. Right now, it’s a week-to-week thing. We only have four or five primary race cars right now. The guys keep doing a good job and I’m doing everything I can to make sure I bring them home in one piece each weekend. We’re slowly getting there.”

Allmendinger says that with the success will also come moments where the team will also fall short of their new expectations. It is how they handle those moments that will ultimately dictate if this run is sustainable.

“We’re going to have our ups and downs,” Allmendinger said. “We could go to Kansas Speedway this weekend and possibly struggle or go to Kansas and dominate the race. That’s the questions we have each week. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and we’re getting closer.”

For Landon Cassill and Hillman Racing, Chase contention was never an option.

LandonCassillThey’ve struggled just to make races at certain points this season, missing both Phoenix and Las Vegas earlier in the year. But the restrictor plate racing has provided an opportunity for Cassill to show off his ability to avoid accidents and make the right decisions, posting top-12s at both Daytona and Talladega.

For a team that often struggles to break the top-30, results like Sunday literally means the world to Cassill and his team.

“It’s just huge,” Cassill said. “This team is incredible. They work really hard. We know what we have and we set it up to the best of our ability. And we knew where to make the right investments too. This was an unsponsored car and we spent the 90,000 for a good motor on this race with and without a sponsor because it’s so important. It’s cool and I’m proud of this team.”

Cassill hopes that posting two excellent finishes on a plate track will ultimately see his team rewarded with a sponsor for the next superspeedway event, at Daytona, in July. Picking up support here and there is what will allow this team to continue to grow.

“We’re going to roll into Daytona with the same car that finished 12th in the Daytona 500 and near the top-10 at Talladega and we’re going to go to Daytona and Talladega in the fall and do it all over again.”