Landon Cassill posts career-best fourth place at Talladega


Lost in all the Chase hoopla, Brad Keselowski’s win and four big names failing to advance was the fact that in the race itself, Landon Cassill pulled through for Hillman Racing in the No. 40 Chevrolet to finish fourth at the end of Talladega’s Geico 500.

Cassill, who started 29th, stayed in the lead draft for a majority of the race and found himself in the top five through the series of late-race restarts.

He made one last-dash run on the outside through the tri-oval on the last lap to even attempt to steal the win – which would have skewed the Chase picture event more – but ended just outside the top three in fourth.

Still, in fourth, Cassill not only had his first career top-five finish, but his first career top-10 finish in 147 Cup starts. He’d done well at two of the three prior restrictor plate races earlier this year, finishing 12th in the Daytona 500 and a season-best 11th at the spring Talladega race in April.

“Amazing finish! I want to be clear about something, my team built these cars themselves, in OUR shop. We didn’t buy these cars from anyone,” Cassill wrote on his Twitter page after the race. “They work 7 days a week, and put everything they know about racing into these four SS races. Nobody deserves a top 5 more than them.”

He and wife Kaitlin had a “mini victory lane” on pit road after the race.

At 25, and driving for a small team, it’s great to see the underdog stories get rewarded at the restrictor plate races. Former Hendrick protege Cassill is showing what he can do given the circumstances.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)