Landon Cassill is every bit as much of the future of NASCAR as is Joey Logano. In fact, the release of Casey Mears may be a sign that he is being fast tracked into a Cup ride. Unconfirmed rumors that Mark Martin may be going to Hendrick to drive the #5 Cup car part time in 2009 make an even stronger suggestion that Cassill may see some Cup time next year.
Cassill won his first pole Saturday morning in only his fifteenth start in the Nationwide Series, for the Camping World RV Sales 200 at New Hampshire. He had to go to the back to start, after a pre-qualifying engine change, but his car was obviously fast at Loudon, as he gained twenty positions in the first forty laps of the race. Then, on lap 48, Cassill's charge toward the front came to an abrubt end as he got bumped by Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and crashed, causing serious damage to the front end of the car and a fire.
Bobby Hamilton, Jr is not his father. His father, the late Bobby Hamilton was as old school as you could get. He grew up an orphan, and worked his way into racing by working and sleeping at a racing garage in Tennessee. He was a humanitarian, and as he achieved success in racing, and evententually in NASCAR, he made it a point to give back to those who gave to him. He also made sure that his son would have a path to NASCAR without having to go through what he did himself.
This is not to say Hamilton, Jr is not a competive or capable racer. He has won races in the Busch/Nationwide series, and even with an underfunded team, he has been on the verge of winning again several times. Although the ESPN Booth Bunnies seemed to suggest that the wreck was intentional retaliation on Hamilton's part, he apologized almost immediately and said that he felt bad about taking out a fast race car.
In spite of what the booth bunnies thought, it is hard to imagine any driver focused on racing suddenly thinking "I have to get that guy back," several weeks after the offending incident. Yes, we do see retaliation shortly after an incident in the same race, but, unless you're Kurt Busch or Jimmy Spencer, a long memory and holding a grudge serves little purpose when racing for points, as Hamilton Jr certainly knows.
Putting that aside, it was a good race, overall, especially for NHMS, which has a history of producing snooze fests. There were several quality lead changes, that were produced by hard racing, and plenty of great racing in the pack. Tony Stewart's crew chief Dave Rogers, Jr, called an audible during the last pit stop, taking two tires after seeing other teams take two or none. His pit crew responded instantly, and we didn't see the type of mess up we saw with another crew a few weeks ago in Matt Kenseth's pit. That put Stewart in third, coming out of the pits, and he quickly and easily put the #20 car in the lead.
The victory wasn't about Tony Stewart, it was about New Hampshire native Dave Rogers. As crew chief for the #20 Nationwide Series team, he has now won eight races in the series with four different drivers. It felt good to see Dave on the winner's podium with his dad beaming proudly behind him.
Mike Bliss was the top Nationwide Series finisher among the regulars. Brad Keselowski, overcoming an ill handling car finished tenth, in spite of a final lap run in with Greg Biffle.
Speaking of Tony Stewart, check out this article from Scene Daily, as Smoke continues continues to pull the legs of reporters who insist on going with a story that has very little substance to it. Here is a short excerpt to pique your interest:
“I’ve still got two ARCA teams I’m talking to, a truck team and now the 5 car’s available,” Stewart said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
I just love Smoke's sense of humor. What are these journalists going to do while waiting for Stewart's decision all the way through 2009?