NEWTON — Leading into this weekend’s action at Iowa Speedway, Cedar Rapids native Landon Cassill was excited.
His NASCAR Nationwide efforts in the past month have yielded a 12th-place finish at Darlington, a 13th-place finish at Richmond and an eighth-place finish at Richmond. So after a week off from Nationwide competition, and the solid run at a similar track in Richmond, the 24 year-old was eager to get to work in his first Nationwide start at his home track on the circuit.
Cassill didn’t leave Saturday’s qualifying disappointed, and will start ninth in Sunday’s Get to Know Newton 250.
“I knew our car was really good; I felt like we had a top-10 car and we showed it,” Cassill said. “We don’t usually make qualifying runs (in practice) to save money on tires, so we just kind of wing it in qualifying.”
In NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying system, there were two rounds on Saturday at Iowa Speedway, with the field cutting down from 40 to 12 after the first round.
Cassill sat third after that first session. He was really happy with that effort, but said his team needs to work on staying at that level from one round to the next.
Regardless, he’s set up with great track position to start the race.
“To be third in the first session is huge, (but) we’ve still got to figure out how to maintain that position in the second session,” Cassill said. “I think it just confirms for me that we had a good car. It’s nice to be able to go in qualifying trim and have speed. That’s where, sometimes, it’s hardest to have speed with these (underfunded) teams because you don’t have the motor. It’s cool.”
As happy as he and crew chief Dave Fuge have been with the car, the goals for Sunday’s race are as high as they’ve ever been for the JD Motorsports team.
A strong run definitely isn’t out of the question for Cassill and his No. 01 car.
“We’ll just try to keep the fenders on it,” Cassill said. “I think we’ve got a shot at a top-five (finish).”
As for fellow Cedar Rapids native Joey Gase, he ended up qualifying 29th.
Gase sat atop the leader board early in the first session, before the top qualifiers hit the track, and lamented how early he went out for his lap. Still, he was content and hopes to have a solid car for Sunday.
“I wish we would’ve waited a little longer to go out; I think some of the K&N (Pro Series) rubber messed us up a little bit, and I think that’s why a lot of the guys were waiting — that and for the track to cool off a little bit,” Gase said. “(Qualifying) 29th is still good for our team. I think we’ll have a pretty good car for the race tomorrow.
“I think hopefully we’ll come in right away. We’re a little free (in handling) during the day, which I like. Hopefully it’ll be like that (during the race). Hopefully we’ll be in good shape.”
The Get to Know Newton 250 starts at 1 p.m.
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