NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: Sheldon Creed Victorious in Darlington Throwback

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Sheldon Creed scored his first victory of 2021 when he took the checkered flag Friday night (May 7) at Darlington Raceway ahead of Ben Rhodes. Almost fittingly, the caution-filled race ended under yellow following five cautions in the final 50 laps. Rookie Carson Hocevar finished third, followed by ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Grant Enfinger.

The race, which was slowed by a 12-minute, 23-second red flag and 12 cautions for a whopping 66 of 147 laps (45%), saw just 22 drivers running at the finish.

The Win That Could’ve Been

After starting on the pole, John Hunter Nemechek once again asserted himself as the driver to beat, looking to extend Kyle Busch Motorsports’ win streak to a record-high six in a row. But after leading five times for 65 laps, a front row restart alongside debuting driver and teammate Corey Heim ended in chaos.

Nemechek’s damage didn’t prove terminal, but after repairs he was so deep in the field that he wasn’t able to make up enough ground to threaten for the win after that. He recovered to an eighth-place finish, his seventh top 10 in eight races this season, with the only outlier being a crash at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track (39th).

That’s where Rhodes comes in. He led three times for 34 laps and was a threat to the front of the field throughout the race. Despite two flat tires and a penalty for pitting before pit road was open on lap 83 that forced him to restart at the tail end of the field, Rhodes was right there as the laps wound down.

Eventual winner Creed took the lead on a lap 140 restart and started to drive away before a caution for a spinning Danny Bohn set up a two-lap showdown for the finish. Though Rhodes beat Creed to the start/finish line on the final restart, an aggressive move for the lead saw Rhodes get loose, leaving the track wide open for Creed to drive away. He was ahead when the caution came out for a Hailie Deegan spin on frontstretch after Creed had received the white flag.

The second-place finish for Rhodes marks his fourth top five in eight races this season.

See also
Sheldon Creed Wins Darlington Truck Series Wreckfest

Race Notes:

  • Carson Hocevar scored a career-best finish of third in just his 17th series start. The rookie surpassed his previous best finish of fifth that came in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and was officially credited for leading a single lap. It’s worth noting that Phil Gould replaced Cody Efaw atop the pit box for Hocevar this weekend following a Niece Motorsports crew chief shakeup.
See also
Carson Hocevar Snags Career-Best Finish at Darlington
  • ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Grant Enfinger both scored their season-best finishes of fourth and fifth respectively. Coincidentally enough, it was the fourth top 10 for both drivers, though Enfinger has one less start this season after sitting out the Daytona International Speedway road course.

  • Johnny Sauter‘s sixth-place run marks his third consecutive top 10 finish and his fourth in the last five races. It’s a step in the right direction for a team that struggled through much of the 2020 season and missed having a shot at the playoffs. There’s still plenty of room to grow and find better speed on race day, but the No. 13 team is headed in the right direction if it can keep this forward momentum going.
  • Timmy Hill scored his sixth career top-10 finish in seventh; he also finished sixth in stage two, which means valuable stage points. Despite the contact that brought out the eighth caution, Hill was able to drive away and back up his ninth-place run at Darlington last season. And while seventh doesn’t seem like much, for this small family-owned team, it might as well be a win. After crashes at Daytona and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the No. 56 team was forced to sit out Atlanta Motor Speedway, putting it at a deficit in owner points, something that’s crucial in this current climate with qualifying at only a select few races.
See also
Timmy Hill Rallies Back to 7th in Darlington Truck Race
  • Austin Wayne Self in eighth scored his second top 10 this season (10th at Bristol dirt) and was one of just a few trucks to avoid being officially scored as involved in one of the night’s 12 cautions. By comparison, Self had just two top 10s in 23 races during the 2020 season.
  • In just his fifth start this season, Jordan Anderson scored a 10th-place finish, which is his best on a non-superspeedway track. It’s a ray of sunshine for the driver who’s been locked out of his planned Xfinity Series schedule after rain canceled qualifying at Daytona. Anderson also made a points declaration swap this week from Xfinity to Trucks.

  • After GMS Racing and Raphael Lessard parted ways earlier in the week, Ryan Reed was tapped to pilot the No. 24 Chevrolet. The 27-year-old started 19th and avoided most of the carnage throughout the race to finish a solid 12th. It’s his best Truck Series finish since a ninth-place run at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a one-off race for David Gilliland Racing in 2019.

  • Erik Darnell made his first Truck Series start since 2008 behind the wheel of the No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, replacing Brett Moffitt. He started 22nd and wasn’t ever officially involved in any of the 12 cautions, however he did slap the wall on lap 99. Given that nearly 13 years have passed since his most recent Truck start at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2008, the 17th-place finish he brought home was more than respectable, especially with zero on track time until the green flag flew.
See also
Brett Moffitt on Shifting Focus to Xfinity: ‘We Have a Shot to Go Win Races’
  • ARCA Menards Series standout and point leader Corey Heim made his Truck Series debut at Darlington. After stage finishes of 13th and second, he got caught up in the Big One that took out more than half of the field. Despite his team’s best efforts to make repairs, the damage proved too extensive to fix under the damaged vehicle policy and Heim was forced to settle for a 23rd-place finish, which is far from indicative of what he did on the track.

  • The 2021 Triple Truck Challenge presented by Womply kicked off at Darlington with Sheldon Creed grabbing the $50,000 bonus. A win by any driver at Circuit of the Americas in two weeks or Charlotte Motor Speedway is worth $50,000. Creed is eligible for up to $500,000 if he can win the next two races, though one more victory for him means a $150,000 payout. Creed won two of the three (Daytona road course, Gateway) Triple Truck Challenge races last season, while his GMS Racing teammate Zane Smith snagged one (Dover).
  • I’ll say it over and over again until NASCAR figures it out, but there’s literally no point in having a competition caution if it’s just like every other yellow flag that comes out on race day. There was mention on the race broadcast that teams were given an extra set of tires because the series was the first to race on a green track. So the question is why can’t the sanctioning body make pitting under the competition caution mandatory for checking tire wear? There’s a simple fix for it, really. Simply freeze the field, make every driver stop for four tires (no fuel) and actually utilize that caution for what its intent is. There’s zero excuse for doing anything differently if NASCAR deems a competition caution as necessary.
  • Can we just take a moment and appreciate NASCAR and the safety innovations that continually improve throughout the years? This wreck involving Tanner Gray, Akinori Ogata and Timmy Hill started off pretty simple but turned into a big hit between Ogata and Gray, both of whom walked away.

  • If you’re like me, you were wondering why so many laps were run under caution following the red flag that flew for the Big One inside 30 laps to go. On the surface, it appeared the red flag should have been out for a longer period if there was that much clean up left to do. I may have missed it if it was mention on the race broadcast, but Bob Pockrass was able to shed some light on what happened there.

2021 Rookie Report

No. 1 – Hailie Deegan
No. 02 – Kris Wright
No. 18 – Chandler Smith
No. 23 – Chase Purdy
No. 42 – Carson Hocevar

No. of rookies in the race: 5

No. of rookies in the top 10: 1; Carson Hocevar, finished third

Rookie of the Race: Hocevar

Point Report: John Hunter Nemechek still has a stronghold on the point lead by 46 markers over Ben Rhodes. Race winner Sheldon Creed moved up one spot to third, while Austin Hill dropped to fourth. Matt Crafton, who gained one position, rounds out the top five, 121 points behind the leader.

Todd Gilliland gained two spots and now sits sixth, while Stewart Friesen dropped two and finds himself seventh. Grant Enfinger (+1) and Zane Smith (-2) sit eight and ninth, respectively, while Johnny Sauter rounds out the top 10.

Series regular winners: Ben Rhodes (Daytona, Daytona road course); John Hunter Nemechek (Las Vegas, Richmond); Sheldon Creed (Darlington)

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Up Next: The Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex. for the series’ first visit to the 3.14-mile, 20 turn road course. There will be a single 55-minute practice session on Friday (May 21) ahead of qualifying that runs early Saturday morning (May 22) ahead of the race. Coverage for the Toyota Tundra 225 begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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