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With 12 completed races and 11 to go this NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series season, the 2020 season is halfway complete. Compared to last year, the most improved driver is Sheldon Creed.
In his second full-time season driving the No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet, the 22-year-old has already clinched his first career Truck Series playoff berth.
Creed is a two-time winner this season, earning his first win in the weather-shortened race at Kentucky Speedway before the most recent race at the inaugural Daytona International Speedway road course, where he fended off teammate Brett Moffitt in overtime for his second career victory.
Last year, in 23 races, Creed earned four top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. This year, he already has four top fives and seven top-10 finishes. He led 180 laps last year while this year he has led 108 laps.
Creed is currently sixth in the point standings. More importantly, he is tied for the most victories among series regulars with two while additionally sitting tied for the most stage wins with four. These two statistics give him 14 playoff points, which will prove vital as he seeks to advance throughout the playoffs, and better than anyone else in the field.
Last year, Creed had only three stage wins with the best finish of second place in back-to-back races at Eldora Speedway and Michigan International Speedway.
What, then, is the reason for Creed’s remarkable improvement this year?
First is his continued experience. Entering the 2019 season, he only had seven career starts with one top five and two top 10s. Practice makes perfect after all.
This year, Creed is competing at tracks for at least the second time in his career. Of the races remaining on the schedule this year, he has only competed once at Dover International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Both Dover and Gateway host races in the regular season, so even if Creed struggles, the penalty will not be massive as he has already clinched his playoff berth.
Creed should not struggle at those three tracks, though. At Dover, he started third and led 59 laps before he crashed on lap 160 of the 200-lap race.
Although Creed only competed at Gateway for the first time in the Truck Series, he raced there previously in the ARCA Menards Series. In his 2018 championship season, Creed won the pole, led 85 laps, and won comfortably by 1.368 seconds at the 1.25-mile track.
In the Truck Series race at Gateway last year, he started seventh, accrued 10 stage points and ultimately finished in seventh place.
Finally, at Talladega, Creed won the opening stage after starting fifth. He led 20 laps, and despite his involvement in the lap 89 caution flag incident, he crossed the finish line in ninth.
A major reason for the noticeable gains this year by Creed can be accredited to his crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz. The winning 2018 ARCA championship duo joined forces beginning at the 14th race of the season last year at Pocono Raceway.
Of their Truck Series races together last year, Creed only finished outside the top 10 three times. He also finished on the lead lap in all but one of those races.
Under Stankiewicz’s tutelage, Creed led laps in two races, at Talladega and Phoenix Raceway. The 16 laps led and an eighth-place finish at the end of the second stage (though he finished 12th overall) in last year’s event at Phoenix gives Creed’s GMS Racing team hope he can battle for the championship in the Championship 4 race at Phoenix if he advances to that round.
Stankiewicz reprised his role atop the No. 2 pit box in 2020, which has led to markedly better races. Creed has led laps in eight of the 12 races this season. Furthermore, their hard work has resulted in Creed only having one DNF this season. Theoretically, even if Creed damages his No. 2 Chevrolet, the ability by his GMS Racing team to keep him in the race could help him earn enough points to make the subsequent playoff round(s).
Finally, the change in contenders this Truck Series has served Creed well. Last year, Ross Chastain won three races en route to a second-place finish in the championship standings. Plus, in a cameo appearance, Greg Biffle won at Texas Motor Speedway. Combined, those two drivers won 17.3% of the races last season. Chastain is winless in a part-time campaign this year and Biffle has not competed at all.
Ten different drivers won last year. Of that group, seven of those returned to the Truck Series this year: Spencer Boyd, Tyler Ankrum, Stewart Friesen, Todd Gilliland, Austin Hill, Moffitt and Johnny Sauter. Hill is the only one who has returned to victory lane this year.
There have been eight different winners this season, but three of those drivers – Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott and Brandon Jones – do not compete full-time. Creed is one of five series regulars to win this season.
Five winners among 12 races have allowed Creed to race upfront more often, challenging for stage points, stage wins, and vie for the win.
Can Creed make the Championship 4 this year? Given his continued experience, Stankiewicz at the helm, his current playoff points and the seemingly less parity among the Truck Series competitors, yes.
He could conceivably make the Round of 8 based on his playoff points, and only two of the 10 playoff drivers will be eliminated after those three races.
As for the Round of 8, it will be a daunting task, but by driving for a championship-caliber organization, Creed has top-notch.
Make no mistake about it, Sheldon Creed is the most improved driver this year. He hopes his career-best season is far from over.
- As noted in the entry list, three full-time teams will not make the journey to Dover for the KDI Office Technology 200. CR7 Motorsports will not field its No. 9, Roper Racing will not field its No. 04, nor will On Point Motorsports field its No. 30.
"This will likely be Roper Racing's last race until the fall due to funding but I'm optimistic about things in the works that will allow us to plan for a full 2021 season with our @Carquest partners" pic.twitter.com/ePaI9eQJpD
— Joseph Srigley (@joe_srigley) August 17, 2020
— Danny Bohn (@DBohn659) August 18, 2020
- Sam Mayer will compete in both the Truck Series race and the ARCA Menards Series East race at Dover. He leads the East championship standings.
— GMS Racing (@GMSRacingLLC) August 19, 2020