At just 28 years old, Landon Cassill has already made 253 starts in the NASCAR Cup Series. If it’s possible for a Millennial to be considered a veteran driver, that’s Cassill.
But the journey will have to continue elsewhere next season. Cassill said he was informed Monday he will not return to Front Row Motorsports in 2018, and he will now begin the process of finding a new ride.
A driver with a cult following on Twitter, Cassill has been behind two popular social media campaigns during his time at Front Row. Last year, he got fans to tweet “38, nice” in honor of his car number at the time; this season, he’s been retweeting fans who take a photo at sponsor Love’s Travel Stops and say they can’t find the driver there.
Cassill said via phone call on Tuesday he was not told why he was out of a ride, other than the team was making “radical changes” for next season. In a statement to this website, the team said it was appreciative for his time there but offered no further details.
“We’re thankful for the last two years having Landon as a teammate and an ambassador for our sponsors, and we’ll keep working hard with him and the No. 34 team for the best possible results the remainder of the 2017 season,” a spokesperson said.
Cassill acknowledged he was surprised by the decision, but said “there’s no message of despair.” After getting over the initial shock, he said, there’s been a feeling of anticipation to see what else is out there.
“I’m kind of excited to see what doors open up for me,” he said. “I have a unique resume in this sport right now. I think my youth is what kind of helps stay plugged in on a social side and off-track side, and then I just have a tremendous amount of experience in the Cup Series — maybe not having the limelight of a top-notch team, but I’d like to work myself into one of those scenarios where I can showcase what I’ve learned.”
This position isn’t new for Cassill, who has driven for seven race teams in the Cup Series as well as four different teams in the Xfinity Series while making 118 starts there.
The Iowa native was originally a Hendrick Motorsports development driver but ultimately had to come up through the Cup ranks in an old-school way: Starting with start-and-park teams, then slowly climbing the ladder in the small team ranks.
His latest stop was Front Row, where he’s averaged a 26th-place finish over two seasons for a team that counts a top-25 result as a good day and a top-20 as a great one.
Along the way, he built a following of underdog-loving fans who appreciate Cassill’s savvy when it comes to the Internet culture.
“One of my big motivations right now is to succeed for all these people who are so emotionally invested in following me and see where I go and what I do,” he said. “I don’t want to let my fans down. And I say that genuinely and feel that, because I know there are fans who have stuck with me for a long time. I feel a sense of responsibility for them as much as I do my own family that I have to provide for.”
Cassill said he would be open to talking to anyone across NASCAR’s three national series (“I don’t turn down any phone calls when I’m in these situations,” he said) but would prefer to land somewhere that has a “road map for me to continue to grow my success.”
“I’ve had a lot of things in my career where my hard work has paid off and put me in positions to keep myself in the business, and I don’t really plan on stopping that at all,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself in how I do things to go about being a professional race car driver that I don’t think will change. I think for me this is just another chapter in my career and my life.
“It’s tough, because sometimes these changes are the best things for opening doors, but they’re the hardest thing in the moment. That’s probably what my family and I are going to be dealing with right now.”
The “Social Spotlight” series continues this week with Landon Cassill, who drives the No. 34 car for Front Row Motorsports. This interview is available in both podcast and written form.
How would you describe your social media philosophy?
I’m a child of the internet, as we all are, for the most part. I’m your typical Millennial, I think. I grew up doing school work on the internet, playing video games on the internet. I feel like internet culture is part of my life, so I kind of just live it out that way. It’s kind of an extension of me.
What was the first social media platform you used?
Xanga was my first social media platform.
What was Xanga?
Xanga was a blog site. Me and my friends had Xanga pages and we’d just post daily content, I guess. (Laughs) It’s all pretty similar — everything has kind of moved from one to the other.
Back then, you’d get home from school, log onto the internet on my computer at home — we had dial-up internet for the longest time — and log onto my Xanga account and make an update about something that happened at school. Then I’d check it every couple hours to see if anybody liked it. You could leave comments and things like that, customize your page. It was kind of cool.
You’re on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. But do you operate your own Facebook?
My Facebook is kind of a collaboration. The biggest thing I do on Facebook is Facebook Live. I scroll through my timeline a lot and see what people comment on pages. I don’t use a personal Facebook page, so it’s not in my habit to be logging onto Facebook a lot. But I love Facebook Live, I love that platform. So I do kind of go in spurts where I’ll be on Facebook an awful lot if I’m posting live content.
For Instagram, I don’t feel like I’m the best photographer and it’s not in me to always stop and take pictures. So my Instagram content is kind of intermittent. But the one thing I really like about Instagram right now is Instagram Live. The content disappears, so you catch it live. There’s no rewinding, you don’t get to see the beginning of the video. You’re just watching it live as it happens, and then once the person logs off the live feed, that’s it. It’s gone. As the host, you see how many people watch your video, and that’s pretty much it. I really like Instagram Live, because it’s a cheap and easy way to see what’s going on out there.
Snapchat is cool. Twitter is where I spend most of my time, mainly because I think it’s folded into my daily life. I spend probably 75% of my time on Twitter reading the news and other content, and less than 25% of my time actually engaging.
Going back to the live stuff for a minute — I’ve never used Instagram Live because it disappears. Why do you like it better than Periscope or Facebook Live, which sticks around on your page?
I think it’s kind of a way for me to post unique, personal, native content on Instagram — but then not have to have that airing out for an extended period of time. That’s one purpose that it serves that I like about it. Because even as authentic as Facebook Live is, it’s still a little planned out.
For instance: After the Daytona 500, I did a recap where I stopped at Love’s Travel Stops (his sponsor) and got fuel on the way home from the Daytona 500. Which it was totally natural — there was nothing staged about that; I needed gas for my truck and there was a Love’s Travel Stop off the interstate. Like I was stopping there anyway.
I was like, “Man, I’ve kind of been wanting to do race recaps and talk to my fans, so what better way to do it than on Facebook?” So that was a very authentic post and it was a real thing that happened, but it was also something in the back of your mind, I know that content is going to stay on Facebook and get more views and for people to see it and follow up with that recap.
Where on Instagram, I can just pull my phone out walking out of the garage to the car and have literally no plan whatsoever and have no idea what I’m going to do, but just fire up Instagram Live and see who’s watching.
The other day, I was on Instagram Live and somebody I hadn’t talked to in five years who I went to high school with was like, “Hey, Landon!” And it was like, “Oh my gosh! Tyler, I haven’t seen you in five years! How’s it going, man?” And then it sparked a conversation, made you think of a story, you tell a quick story and then you get to your car and you log off and it’s gone.
It’s really just an authentic experience between you and your viewers and then I think it serves a value to Instagram because a lot of people have notifications turned on, and Instagram sends out a notification that says “Landon Cassill is live.” I think the platforms are thinking people can’t help themselves. They have to see what’s going on. I think it’s like free advertisement for your page. It’s a good way to drive people to your site.
You’re excellent at Snapchat, but it doesn’t seem like you love it as much as you love Twitter. Has your love affair with Snapchat cooled? And how many people do you follow on Snapchat?
I follow just a handful of people on Snapchat. Snapchat isn’t my primary source of news, and I feel like I’m super interested in news. Twitter is just a really good platform for that right now.
I do like watching people’s snaps. Snapchat is really cool because they have some neat technology none of the other platforms have. The facial recognition stuff and even the object recognition stuff that is in their platform, that’s probably what they’re going to be positioning themselves to really pop here in the next couple years. Especially since they’ve gone public, they’re injected with a crapload of money.
I follow NASCAR, Lewis Hamilton, a couple friends of mine, Jordan Anderson, Gary Vee (Vaynerchuk), Kim Kardashian, my sister Echo. And then I have a couple group messages with friends and some friends that send me snaps on a daily basis. I’ll probably be going in and out of Snapchat over the course of the year.
Let’s talk about Twitter, since you use that the most. Is it the first thing you check in the morning? Do you ever worry you’re looking at it too much? Because we hear about the Twitter vacuum.
Yeah, I’m probably stuck in the Twitter vacuum. It’s definitely the first thing I check in the morning. I don’t watch a lot of TV other than Netflix — my wife and I have shows we watch — so I get all of my news, my gossip, pretty much my social information from my Twitter timeline. Everything serious, everything humorous. I follow my favorite weatherman on Twitter. Political stuff. It’s pretty much Twitter for me.
If you have people who are giving you a hard time, do you block them, mute them or ignore them?
I don’t block people. Actually, if somebody is giving me a hard time, I take the time to try and win them over. (Laughs) Honestly, it works every time. I have won over fans that were talking so much crap and I would just engage with them. They just want attention. Now, I don’t get a lot of people hating on me on Twitter. When I do get someone, it’s like, “Oh, I’m going to see what’s crawled up this guy’s butt and just talk to him a little bit” and it always works.
But if you’re like Dale Jr. or Brad Keselowski or some really polarizing figure in the sport, they probably get hundreds of those a day. I wouldn’t be doing that at that point.
I don’t like blocking people. I don’t like silencing people. I don’t think that’s cool. But I do mute people — and that’s just if their timeline is annoying.
So people you follow — you mute them?
I definitely have people I follow that I mute. And that’s just because I don’t really want to unfollow them. I have people I’m friends with that I just don’t like their regular content. But if they tweeted me, I want to see a notification so I can engage in conversation. So I mute them. That’s my solution. But blocking people? I’m not into that. I’m not into silencing people.
What do you think the future of Twitter is? We hear a lot about how Millennials don’t get on Twitter and they go straight to Snapchat. Is Twitter going to go the way of MySpace?
I’m not really sure. People said the same thing about Facebook, but Facebook had the strength of a billion users. Twitter has been up and down and the one thing that’s tough about Twitter are a lot of the bots that are on there.
Yeah, what’s up with the bots?
It’s just weird. You don’t know where it comes from. I don’t know if it’s a problem with Twitter. I feel like Twitter did a good job with one of their recent algorithms. They made an update where verified accounts or accounts with seemingly original content are higher up in the replies list of other verified accounts. So that got rid of a lot of the shit-posting, pretty much. But that still happens an awful lot.
Twitter is a cool thing, and for me, until I find a better place to get my news and a better place to get a constant stream of updates, it’s going to be hard to find another platform. I’ve got almost six or seven years of time invested in this one platform for all the people I follow.
Unlike a lot of drivers, you’ve built relationships and made friends with people through Twitter — fans of yours, people who have cool content. Why were you willing to do that?
Man, why not? I’m just a regular person, and I like to get to know people and I like to learn from people who have different points of view and have different skills. So I’ve made a lot of friends online in all kinds of industries. In a lot of ways, those networking moves and relationships I’ve built have gotten me a lot of interesting media attention and opportunities on platforms outside of just NASCAR racing. I’ve built a lot of genuine friendships and I’ve learned a lot of cool things from people and I think that’s just natural for me. I don’t put myself on a pedestal or anything. I’m a NASCAR driver, but I’m kind of just like anybody else.
How many people you’ve met through Twitter have your personal cell phone number?
Probably quite a few. I mean, more than you could count on two hands.
So no problems with that?
Not really. I don’t just give it out to anybody. But how is it different letting someone have your cell phone number than letting them in your direct messages? Like, the notification comes through the same way. Shoot, with Snapchat you can call someone. You can video call with someone. You have the same capabilities. To me, it’s all the same thing.