(Photo: Aaron Bearden)

Sheldon Creed Holds Chandler Smith at Bay for ARCA Iowa Win

By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor

NEWTON, Iowa — Sheldon Creed kept his summer streak of ARCA Racing Series dominance alive at Iowa Speedway.

Creed led a race-high 85 laps and fended off a fierce challenge from Venturini Motorsports ace Chandler Smith in the closing laps to win Saturday’s Fans With Benefits 150. The victory was the Californian’s third in the past five races, and marked his seventh-consecutive finish in the top three.

“We have some momentum right now,” Creed said afterward. “It’s so hard to get these race cars hooked up and right now we’re hooked up. It’s a great feeling. We’ve been focused on winning races all season long, but we’ve been looking at the points since day one as well. We aren’t comfortable with where we’re at just yet. There’s a long way to go.”

Creed started from pole and took home the win, but his path to victory lane was far from simple.

In a race filled with ebbs and flows from multiple drivers, Creed was just one of many that found their way to the front of the field. The MDM Motorsports star led the field to green, but he lost the top spot to Chicagoland Speedway winner Michael Self on Lap 19. Riley Herbst passed Creed for second a few laps later, and Harrison Burton surged by him for third before Lap 40.

The opening 60 laps went by without a caution, and Self proved to be the quickest car through it. Herbst led briefly on Lap 38, but Self paced 41 circuits during the stint to establish himself as the one to beat.

A Gus Dean spin off of Turn 2 brought out the first caution on Lap 61, and it began a midsection filled with crashes and short runs. Herbst led Burton on the ensuing restart, but Zane Smith surged by them both on the high lane to steal the lead.

Herbst dropped to the back half of the top five moments later. On Lap 70, he and Self made contact. Herbst crashed, eliminating him from the race laps later in 17th.

Self continued on, but had damage that hurt the pace and handling of his No. 55 Toyota. He spun just a handful of circuits later on Lap 81, and eventually pulled out of the race with radiator issues and finished 18th.

Another caution came out for a David Sear crash on Lap 96, and a final yellow flew 10 circuits later on Lap 106 for a spinning Christian Eckes.

The latter caution set the field up for a 40-lap battle to the finish, and it quickly became a war between Creed and Chandler Smith.

Creed shot out to the lead on the restart, but Smith lurked right behind him in the No. 20 Toyota. Smith wouldn’t let Creed get away for the entire final run to the checkered flag, staying within 1.5 seconds of the points leader and even challenging him for the lead a few times.

Smith mounted one final charge in the final laps, but in the end the Madison International Speedway winner took the checkered flag just two car lengths behind Creed in second.

“I moved around at the end of the race, and on the last lap I found something that I should have probably done five laps earlier,” Smith told Motorsports Tribune. “We could have driven by (Creed) and probably pulled away. Learning experience.”

Chase Purdy followed in third to score his fourth-consecutive top five. Zane Smith and Joe Graf Jr. rounded out the top five, with Burton, Mason Mitchell, Bret Holmes, Travis Braden and Sam Mayer completing the top 10.

Creed’s victory was the 12th-straight win for Toyota Racing to open the year in ARCA competition. The last victory for the other manufacturers came in the 2017 season finale at Kansas Speedway, when Self won in a Chevrolet.

The ARCA Racing Series will return to action at Elko Speedway on July 14.

Fans With Benefits 150 Results

  1. Sheldon Creed
  2. Chandler Smith
  3. Chase Purdy
  4. Zane Smith
  5. Joe Graf Jr.
  6. Harrison Burton
  7. Mason Mitchell
  8. Bret Holmes
  9. Travis Braden
  10. Sam Mayer
  11. Christian Eckes
  12. Max Tullman
  13. Rick Clifton
  14. Darrell Basham
  15. Brad Smith
  16. Natalie Decker
  17. Riley Herbst
  18. Michael Self
  19. David Sear
  20. Gus Dean
  21. Richard Doheny
  22. Con Nicolopoulos
  23. Wayne Peterson

Aaron Bearden is a Contributing Writer for Motorsports Tribune, handling coverage of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A native Hoosier, Bearden has attended races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he was three years old. He can be found on social media at @AaronBearden93.