Landon Cassill lost the Fontana lead, but won air time and hearts

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It’s hard not to love a good underdog story and for about 10 to 15 minutes in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Landon Cassill was that underdog story.

The driver of the No. 40 Hillman Racing Chevrolet opted not to pit during the final caution flag that set up the green-white-checkered finish. So he’d be leading on the restart, on old tires, knowing full well he’d be a sitting duck once the green flew.

No matter. Cassill did the responsible thing and got out of the way to allow all the faster cars on new tires through, and eventually faded back to 25th over two laps. Which, for the small operation, is still a darn good result.

But he’d generated a wealth of buzz and attention for he and his small team, and trended nationally on Twitter.

In an interview with The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Cassill said he knew was a sitting duck, but the gamble was well worth it.

“We knew we were a sitting duck,” he said. “By staying out and keeping 25 cars on the lead lap, I basically ensured my worst finish would be 25th.

“At that point, it doesn’t even matter (what the spotter says). I knew my agenda on that restart was to get a clean start, get to the start finish line and then get to the outside so that they could all do their thing on the bottom.”

Cassill finished 12th at the Daytona 500 to lead the underdogs there. He’s not running for Cup points, but story lines are not limited by series, and his brief run at the front generated way more than just “he finished 25th.”

From Joe Falk, who runs the team:

Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”