By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Sheldon Creed is potentially gearing up for late-summer surge.
Following a lackluster first half of his rookie Xfinity Series campaign, the Richard Childress Racing driver has now placed top five in the last two races following Saturday’s 90-lapper from Pocono Raceway.
Starting sixth, the 24-year-old ran consistently in the top five en route to a fifth-place finish. And unlike his fifth place last week in New Hampshire, this didn’t require a technicality, as the second- and third-place finishers were disqualified, pushing Creed from seventh to fifth.
With that in mind, Saturday’s result felt like that next step up the ladder.
“We had a gimme top five last week so it was great to run top five all day today,” Creed said. “I loved that for my team, it gives us confidence. It gives me a reason to not be angry when I get home and be pissed off for the next six days.”
That week-long emotion steams from what has been a difficult season in 2022. Before New Hampshire, Creed only managed two top-ten finishes in the previous 11 races.
And coming off two championship-contending seasons in the Camping World Truck Series (including a title in 2020), the this year has been a harsh reminder of the competitiveness of the Xfinity Series.
“You go from trucks that have a ton of downforce and way less power to something that is slipping and sliding with way less grip and more power,” he said. “There was certainly some adjustment time there. The biggest thing was going to these tracks, never been into an Xfinity car, don’t know what I need to tell the guys. And I get 20 minutes to figure it out. That part has been tough.
“I mean, we’ve shown up and straight-up run 15th all day. I’m not good at that and I have zero fun when I’m doing that. We’ve had some hard weeks, I’ve been hard on myself, the team has been hard on themselves. We’re just trying to grow together.
“And we’re finally starting to see some daylight. I feel now I’m getting comfortable that I can tell the guys exactly what I want from the car. Baby steps.”
Consistency is king in any playoff battle. Matt Crafton mad the Truck Series playoffs on Saturday on points while the Xfinity Series is filled with point contenders for the postseason.
Sitting 47 points outside the playoffs behind 12th-palce Landon Cassill, there is new-found confidence that he can point his way into the title fight.
“I think we can catch the No. 39 [Ryan Sieg, 57 points above] on points,” he said. “But I don’t want to think about that. I want to focus on growing with the team. I would love to get a win, I think road courses are going to be something we circle in the next [seven races].
“I don’t think you’re just gonna go from running 10th to 15th every week and then pop one off and win. You have to go through the paces and run fifth all day before you’re gonna go lead all day.”