Eighteen-year-old Cassill shakes off first-race jitters

The results don't tell the whole story. Landon Cassill finished 32nd in his Busch debut, but the 18-year-old was running in the top 10 before an accident soured his day, writes Rupen Fofaria.

Updated: July 26, 2007, 2:58 PM ET
By Rupen Fofaria | Special to ESPN.com

Landon Cassill has attracted considerable attention.

After his Busch Series debut last weekend at Gateway International Speedway, the focus on this 18-year-old -- the youngest racer in the Hendrick Motorsports stable and the man wearing the badge of future stardom -- only has intensified.

Cassill qualified sixth in St. Louis and raced inside the top 10 for the first half of the event before getting involved in an accident on lap 109. The final scoring sheet put him at 32nd.

I feel like I learned a lot during my first Busch Series race, and I got a lot of the butterflies out of my stomach.

Landon Cassill

"I was so excited that we qualified that well and ran in the top seven throughout most of the night," Cassill said. "The guys stuck with me through the race and that's what it's going to take for the National Guard Chevy to run up front. I feel like I learned a lot during my first Busch Series race, and I got a lot of the butterflies out of my stomach."

One of the important lessons he learned was getting out of the gates early. With the Busch Series racing with the Nextel Cup Series this weekend -- and increased participation from the Cup drivers -- that's going to be even more important.

"At the beginning of the race at Gateway, I learned that it is very important to race hard from the start because track position is so important," he said. "It took me a couple of laps to get ... in a rhythm, and it just seemed like we could have been even better if I would have gotten up to speed right away. In Indy, I am going to really work on going hard on the restarts and keeping up with the leaders."

He'll do so with a deeper sense of calm, more determined than anxious and more hungry than scared. He's not an experienced Busch driver by any stretch, but he's gotten past the first race and with that accomplishment comes many benefits.

"I feel more at ease right now, because everyone I've talked to at Hendrick has told me how excited they are for me," he said. "That alone has relieved a lot of pressure. I just think that it is very important to put last week's race behind me and focus on ORP [O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind.]. I want to make sure that we have another successful week."

Crew chiefs penalized
NASCAR fined Doug Chouinard, crew chief of the No. 3 Toyota driven by Todd Bodine, and Chuck Meyers, crew chief of the No. 1 Chevrolet driven by J.J. Yeley, for rules violations discovered during opening-day inspection at Gateway International Raceway.

Chouinard was fined $5,000 for nonconforming equipment, including the throttle shaft and plate. Meyers was fined $500 for not using fuel cell foam as provided by the manufacturer.

Bristol makeover
Thirty-three Busch Series teams tested at Bristol Motor Speedway on Tuesday, trying out the track's new surface, which was installed following the Cup race in March. David Reutimann had the fastest time of the day. Most drivers agreed that the track has a brand-new feel.

"It's definitely different," Jason Keller said. "There is not as much transition down in the corners, which makes the car more comfortable getting in and should lead itself to side-by-side racing."

Happy homecoming for Krisiloff?
Kyle Krisiloff grew up just a few miles from the track he'll maneuver about on Saturday and is looking forward to the homecoming. He's had an up-and-down rookie year, but he said the team is now heading in the right direction and he feels a surge of momentum behind him.

"It's a good time to be going home," he said. "We had our best start of the season [18th] at Gateway. Our car is getting better. And we have big things going on with our team in the next couple of months."

Rupen Fofaria has covered NASCAR for ESPN.com since 2002. He can be reached at rupenisracin@yahoo.com.