Did anyone else have Sheldon Creed 15th in NASCAR Xfinity Series points after 11 races? I didn’t think so.
Yet, that is where he and his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing team sit — 68 points behind 12th-place Daniel Hemric.
In September of last year, it was announced that Creed would graduate from the Camping World Truck Series to Xfinity with RCR. Before he stepped into the famous No. 2, he piloted the No. 78 for BJ McLeod Motorsports at the 2021 season finale race at Phoenix Raceway, where he finished 10th. Then he started the season off on a high note, capturing a sixth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway — a race teammate Austin Hill won.
But since then, it has been an overall rough rookie season for the 2020 Truck Series champion.
After starting the season in ninth in the overall points, the highest Creed has been since then is 11th. Since Circuit of the Americas on March 26, Creed has slipped back. In the five races since, he has only one finish in the top 20 — an eighth at Dover Motor Speedway. The accompanying finishes are a 22nd at Richmond Raceway, a 30th at Martinsville Speedway, 24th at Talladega Superspeedway and a 38th-place finish at Darlington Raceway. Worse for wear, Creed finished worst among the “Power 12” teams and drivers.
That makes the upcoming summer races very crucial to the playoff hopes for Creed and the No. 2 team. On the bright side, several of the circuits ahead are good tracks or types of tracks for Creed.
The next two races are this Saturday, May 21 at Texas Motor Speedway and the following week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Two of Creed’s eight Truck Series victories came on mile-and-a-half tracks (Kentucky Speedway and Texas).
In Creed’s Truck championship season, the calendar included 11 mile-and-a-half tracks. He scored two wins and four top-two finishes. Earlier this season, he finished seventh at the only traditional mile-and-a-half track so far in 2022 — maybe a good omen to close the month of May.
Pocono Raceway (July 23) and Darlington’s second race (Sept. 3) are two tracks where Creed’s record in the Truck Series is stellar. In three starts at Pocono, Creed has scored two top-fives — both third-place finishes — in 2020 and 2021. He led 31 laps in the 2020 race and nearly won his first career Truck race that day but was passed on the final lap by Brandon Jones. He picked up that first win the following race at Kentucky.
Arguably, at Darlington, Creed should be perfect in Trucks. If it weren’t for a late-race caution that forced Creed and many others to pit, he would have won the 2020 race on top of his 2021 sweep of Darlington Truck races. At Darlington two weeks ago, an engine failure sidelined him early in the race.
Over the next three months, the Xfinity Series will stop at four road courses: Portland International Raceway (June 4), Road America (July 2), Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course(July 30) and Watkins Glen International (Aug. 20). In his three full seasons, Creed started five road course races in Trucks, averaging a third-place finish. He finished fourth at his first race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Then in the replacement race at Daytona’s road course, Creed won in 2020 and finished second in 2021. He finished fifth in the inaugural race at Circuit of the Americas and third at Watkins Glen.
Creed hasn’t laid rubber on Portland in an Xfinity car, but no Xfinity driver has. Since he has raced at Watkins Glen, his experience there may prove helpful with Portland’s high speeds and technical esses. He has no experience at the Indianapolis road course and has one start at Road America back in 2017 when he drove a race for JD Motorsports.
Road course racing in NASCAR is finicky with stage racing, yet it presents an excellent opportunity for any driver to win. A surprise winner can emerge if cautions fall at the right time and the stages are flipped correctly. Creed wouldn’t be the biggest surprise winner, and in fact, given his track record in the Truck Series, I wouldn’t classify a win by Creed on a road course as a surprise at all.
With the way the season has played out for Creed, maybe the best way to approach each road course is to go for the win and nothing short of one. Of course, an untimely caution can ruin that, but depending on how the next two races at Texas and Charlotte go down, a swing-for-the-fences strategy at Portland may be the best option.
While Creed doesn’t necessarily have to win, a win helps and would likely relieve the mounting pressure for the rookie. The other side to simply running better is also outdriving his surrounding competition — which is mainly RCR-affiliated organizations.
Standing between him and 12th place are Our Motorsports teammates Anthony Alfredo and Jeb Burton, respectively. Burton is running around 15th, and Alfredo just a smidge better most of the time. Ahead of the Our drivers are Kaulig Racing drivers Hemric and Landon Cassill.
Admittedly, Kaulig seems to have lost a step or two from 2021, but it seems far too premature to completely rule them out of contention or slap a panic sticker on them. When the pair don’t suffer from issues, their cars may not be winning material, but they are at the very least a top-12 car more often than not.
Then there is Ryan Sieg, who is having a career year so far and is outpacing a few “Power 12” teams every week. If he were to squeak out a win, one of the “Power 12” teams is guaranteed not to be in the playoffs. Right now, that driver is Creed.
Maybe this off weekend was a good chance to reset for Creed and his team. He will encounter many tracks over the summer where he has experienced strong performances before. Even if a win doesn’t occur, they will be prime opportunities to reclaim the swagger he possessed in the Truck Series.
Consider the pressure on for Creed, but there’s still time before the valve to relieve that pressure can no longer be opened.
Josh Roller is a 2019 graduate of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI in Indianapolis. While in school, he covered the 2018 Indianapolis 500 and the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship. He was an extern for INDYCAR in 2019 and interned with Charlotte Motor Speedway's Communications Department in 2020. Besides writing the Xfinity Breakdown for Frontstretch, he also does a weekly podcast with a friend he met at the 2018 Indy 500, Rob Peeters, called the Racing with Rob and Roller podcast.
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You mentioned the summer races being crucial to his playoff hopes.
For Cup rookies, Cindrick being the exception due to stepping into the 2 car, playoffs should not even be a consideration. They have more than enough pressure trying to adapt to the competition level in Cup. If they make them, so much the better. No matter what their racing background, unless they have famous fathers, or their grandfathers own the team. They’re racing for their careers. If they are able to build a solid foundation, the playoffs will take care of themselves.
Oops, I was thinking Cup, not Xfinity. My bad.
Good thing for Cindric, is he’s locked into the Playoffs with his win in the 500. He’d be hanging on for dear life if he had finished 2nd that night.
Creed will be fine. It took him a while in the Truck series before he started winning and dominating races.
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