Landon Cassill learned a valuable lesson while racing Late Models in his home state of Iowa.
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While trading paint at a local short track with a rival — in what the driver refers to as “a tickle fight” — Cassill fenced the other racer and wrecked both cars.
Cassill, who was 15 at the time, recalls the immediate response of his father and then car owner: “I want you to go to the garage and park my race car. You need to know how to be aggressive without wrecking yourself.”
If his father’s scolding didn’t have an effect on the aspiring driver, then having to repair his car and “draining my bank account” in the process most certainly did.
The experience came flooding back to Cassill on Sunday after he was wrecked by Danica Patrick on Lap 155 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway. It’s what prompted his radio reply, “You got to learn how to wreck somebody without wrecking yourself."
Patrick accepted responsibility for the accident. She called the situation with Cassill “a product of frustration.”
“He got into me on the front straight and said, ‘I was just in the way,’ ” Patrick said. “That’s really no good reason to hit me. If it’s one time, I can imagine it’s frustration, but it’s been quite a few times with him.
“At some point I have to stand up for myself, so this doesn’t happen with other people. I chose today. The bummer about it is that my car is out, and he’s still out there going, so I’ve got to work on how to do that."
Not only did Patrick finish 32nd, her second-worst finish of the year, she destroyed the car the team had planned to use at Texas Motor Speedway in two weeks.
And Patrick’s actions even took her veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli by surprise.
"Bull(crap) right there now," Zipadelli said. "You know better than to do that (crap)."
Cassill’s primary complaint was that Patrick was racing midpack, midway through the race as if it were the last lap. She started the race from the rear of the field because of an engine change.
Cassill, who rolled off 26th, acknowledged his car wasn’t as competitive as he had hoped. But by the tenor of the race — and the multiple wrecks before Patrick igniting the eighth caution — Cassill felt if he remained patient through attrition, he could salvage a respectable finish.
“It’s still halfway through the race,” Cassill said. “(Patrick) is starting behind me, and she makes it three-wide going into (Turn) 1. I was wondering what the hell she was doing. Then she’s holding us all up. . . . She was crowding me . . . It’s not how you race for 30th on Lap 150 or whatever lap it was. I got her loose and then door-checked her down the front stretch.
“I didn’t hit her because she was in the way. I hit her because she was driving like a maniac for 30th when the race was playing into all our favors. . . . All we had to do was let the race come into our hands and not wreck ourselves in the process.”
Cassill, 23, finished 18th. He tied his best finish of the season (Charlotte in May) in the No. 83 Toyota — the 10th top-20 finish for BK Racing, which made its debut this season. Travis Kvapil competes in the second car.
“We weren’t like fast, so it was good to have help by attrition,” Cassill said. “My teammate was better than us all weekend. He had a faster car. But we had a good finish, so that was good.”
Cassill texted Patrick an apology, but had not received a reply before this story was posted.