By Cole Cusumano
LONG POND, Penn – Things are finally starting to look up for the 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion.
Sheldon Creed entered the NASCAR Xfinity Series ranks with a lot to prove. Before joining the respected organization of Richard Childress Racing for his rookie campaign, the 24-year-old scored a top-10 in the lone race he competed in for B.J. McLeod Motorsports the season prior.
After Creed scored four top-10s in the first six races and his teammate Austin Hill won the season opener, expectations couldn’t have been higher for the former Truck Series Champion. However since his respectable start to the 2022 season, things haven’t been going as expected.
Through 19 races, Creed has eight top-10s and only 54 laps led. The No. 2 team hit rock bottom through the month of June when they succumbed to three-straight DNFs, bringing the total to six on the season.
Luckily for Creed, he’s run into some good fortune following the recent, nasty cold stretch. Over the past two weeks the rookie is riding back-to-back top-fives. Perhaps even more encouraging than what the results show, he averaged a fifth-place running position – his best all season – at Pocono Raceway.
“I don’t think it’s a surprise,” Creed told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “We’ve been finding speed even when we weren’t getting great finishes. I think we’ve been growing. It’s nice to run top-five all day and to be able to compete with these guys.”
Part of Creed’s tribulations came due to transitioning from Trucks to Xfinity stock cars. As a rookie who’s completed four full-time seasons racing equipment with little power and lots of downforce, it’s understandable why the acclimation process in competing with the complete opposite is so difficult.
Not to mention, he’s seeing many tracks for the first time and with only 20 minutes of practice to dial it in with a brand-new team.
“I feel now I’m getting comfortable to where I can tell the guys exactly what I want in the car, and I think we’re seeing that now that we’re starting to run better,” Creed said. “Baby steps.”
Amidst all the struggles, Creed has managed to claw his way up to 13th in the standings. He’s now within 47 points of Landon Cassill for the final playoff spot with seven races remaining in the regular season.
“We’re not just gonna go fire off and win one,” Creed said. “I think when you start with top-fives, running top-five all day, then maybe we can get ourselves a win. I think we have a shot at pointing our way in if we keep racing like we did [at Pocono].
“I don’t even want to think about that: I want to focus on growing with the team.”
Playoffs are a reality for Creed in his rookie Xfinity season as he begins his quest for another developmental series title. Perhaps even more importantly, this could be an audition for a bigger opportunity looming large: a ride in the NASCAR Cup Series.
With Tyler Reddick set to leave RCR at the end of the 2023 season, Creed could be a viable candidate to fill the No. 8 seat as a champion already at the national series level. Only time will tell if the 24-year-old adds another title to his resume, but he’ll have more than enough time to develop through the next two years.