By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Sheldon Creed completed the Darlington double on Sunday, extending his monopoly on the Round of 10 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.
Creed’s victory in the In It to Win It 200 at Darlington Raceway was his second straight in the series and his second straight at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track, giving him a season sweep at the Lady in Black.
It was the third straight win in a Playoff race for the reigning series champion, who secured his title with a victory in the 2020 season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
“Way to start off the Playoffs,” said Creed, who led 104 of the 147 laps, won the second stage and beat runner-up John Hunter Nemechek to the finish line by .531 seconds. “Man, we started out our day really, really loose, and I was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re in trouble here.’
“The guys worked on it. The pit crew killed it all day.”
Thanks to impeccable work by his over-the-wall crew, Creed seized track position and control of the race. He led the final 80 laps after regaining the top spot from Chandler Smith during a pit stop under caution on Lap 68.
“We’ve had a tough season, but we’re finding it at the right time,” said Creed, who won for the third time in 2021. “It feels so good to go back-to-back wins … Got to put the pressure on the other guys. I had really nothing to lose coming in, and we’ve got fast trucks.
“I had to work for that one. The KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) trucks were moving there in the short run. Even in the long runs, I thought they were better than us. Just track position—I could kind of go where I wanted when I was in front. If I got behind them, I was going to be in big trouble.”
With his second-place finish, Nemechek, the regular-season champion, clinched a spot in the Round of 8 on points. Eight other drivers are vying for the remaining six berths in the next round, heading for the Sept. 16 cutoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Zane Smith (ninth Sunday) and Chandler Smith (seventh) are the two drivers below the cut line entering the Round of 10 finale at Thunder Valley.
Stewart Friesen ran third in Sunday’s race and improved to fourth in the standings, two points behind third-place Matt Crafton (10th Sunday) and 33 above the current cut line. Todd Gilliland finished fourth at Darlington, followed by non-Playoff drivers Parker Kligerman and Grant Enfinger.
ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes suffered the most severe damage to his Playoff chances after running into the back of Creed’s truck on an early restart, then spinning and hitting the wall in a three-car incident with Jack Wood and Kris Wright on Lap 67.
Rhodes finished 34th, seven laps down, and dropped to fifth in the standings, 15 points above the cut line.
The race featured eight cautions for a total of 35 laps. There were four lead changes among three drivers, with Nemechek out front for 39 laps and Chandler Smith leading the remaining four circuits.
Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography