By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
It was an intense Thursday night for rookie Sheldon Creed, who exits Eldora Speedway with a career-high second in the 7th annual Eldora Dirt Derby.
This comes after being involved in multiple incidents throughout the night, which he recovered tremendously and brought the No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado its first top-five since the finale at Homestead last year, where he finished fifth.
“This place is so tough. You have to be so easy,” Creed on the demanding dirt circuit. “Man I don’t know if there’s an award for most trucks passed, but I felt like we came from the back a couple of times there.”
Creed started off the 150-lap race with a strong start but had nothing on defending Dirt Derby winner Chase Briscoe, who won the first two stages, and had to settle for fourth.
The second stage proved to be brutal in the closing laps as the seventh-place runner drove very low and lost control of his truck in Turn 1, bringing out the seventh caution.
Fortunately for the 2018 ARCA Menards Series champion, he turned his truck back around without any damage and settled for 20th in the stage.
Near disaster almost took place with 56 laps remaining when three-time series winner Ross Chastain went around on the backstretch. It led Tyler Dippel to slow down and bunched up the field, including Creed. This led him to steer right and accidentally pinched Tyler Ankrum into the wall.
Like his spin earlier, the tough racer in that Silverado carried on without skipping a beat and in the final two laps, he posed a threat for the win.
Heading into Turn 1, Creed got by points leader Grant Enfinger for second and amounted a decent charge on leader Stewart Friesen. A bid for his maiden win wasn’t meant to be as the battle between dirt racing veterans was one-sided with Friesen beating Creed by 0.728 seconds, finally capturing that elusive Truck Series win in his 63rd start.
The 21-year-old felt what got him in that excellent spot to battle in the mad dash for the win was being on the preferred top groove. Starting there also came with small consequences as he’s aware that he ran over aggressive with one particular driver.
“I started 10th and got to second, but it’s all about starting on the top,” said Creed. “I thought we were going to start on the top a few times and then would move us on the last lap. I was fortunate to start on the top on those last two restarts. I think I started sixth and then I was fourth.
“I’m sure the No. 99 (Ben Rhodes) is not happy with me. I was running in fifth and doored pretty good there for fourth and then the caution came out, and I was like ‘thank god.'”
Heading into the final stop of the regular season at Michigan, Creed is down to his last resort if he wants to make the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs. That’s by winning as he’s 120 points behind the playoff cutoff currently held by Matt Crafton, who wound up 10th.
For now, with his season consisting just his first top-five Thursday and five top-10s in 15 races, he’s just content on the progress his No. 2 team made from practice and heat race as it’s just his second race with crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz, Creed’s lead caller during his ARCA title run.
“I’m just happy for all my guys. This is my second race with Jeff back onboard and just can’t thank GMS Racing and Chevrolet enough,” said Creed. “We worked so hard on this thing last night and trying to get it tight enough and get drive off. I wasn’t very good in the heat race and usually it’s a good sign on dirt if you’re not good right off the bat. This is cool for us to run in second. As brutal as our season has been, I’m pretty happy with this.”