Over the past number of years, Sheldon Creed has been touted as one of the top prospects in the NASCAR garage. This year, he has his shot to go Xfinity Series racing with Richard Childress Racing.
Creed, 25, won the 2020 Camping World Truck Series championship in just his second full-time season. The big win came just two years following his championship-winning performance in the ARCA Menards Series.
Ahead of the 2021 season, Creed thought he was ready to make the jump to the Xfinity Series. However, he already signed on with GMS to return to the Truck Series for a third season. Hindsight always being 20/20, he believes it was a good move to stay in the Truck Series.
“I don‘t think there was really a good ride open,” Creed told Jayski.com at Daytona International Speedway. “I don‘t think I was ready either, so I‘m glad it worked out the way it did.”
Last September, Creed signed on as the full-time driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR in 2022. Less than one month later, the team announced Whelen would sponsor the California native for the duration of the season. Whelen first joined RCR as a primary sponsor during the 2016 Cup Series season.
Not having to worry about sponsorship was a relief to Creed, who competed in a blank truck last year in a few races, despite winning the championship the year prior. And though talking to six different teams — or as Creed called it, “everyone but Penske” — RCR was the best option for 2022.
“I knew I wanted to stay with Chevy, and that was our main goal,” Creed said. “I feel like everyone is super laid back here and they‘re a bunch of old-school racers. It was more feasible here with the sponsorship and money it takes to go racing. Who gives us $5 million to go Xfinity racing? It‘s insane. They had partners and it all came together.
“We felt wanted. We had gotten calls from other teams and sat down, and at the end of the meeting they were like, ‘Alright, we would love to have you, but this is what it‘s going to cost. We have a great team to take care of your sponsors if you have any.‘”
Team owner Richard Childress was excited to call up a pair of former Truck Series drivers in Creed and Austin Hill to revamp the company’s Xfinity Series lineup. For the first time since 2018, the team will field multiple full-time entries.
“Sheldon has a lot of talent and I think we‘ll see a lot out of him,” Childress said. “I‘m as excited about the Xfinity Series as I was when we had Tyler [Reddick] come in and win the championship. It‘s cool to have this caliber of drivers in there.”
Creed noted that with RCR going back to two full-time Xfinity cars, it motivated a lot of the people in the Welcome, N.C. race shop. After all, the team can still build bodies and chassis for the Xfinity Series Chevrolet, something they can’t do with the Cup Series’ Next Gen car.
To get ready for the 2022 season, Creed alluded to watching different videos and having a different mindset. The thought process in the Truck Series is, “How long can I stay wide open for?” Now, it’s about finessing how the air works and fine tuning the No. 2 Chevrolet.
When Creed joined RCR, he brought one of his best friends, Jeff Stankiewicz, with him as his crew chief. The duo have been paired together since Creed started running in ARCA on a more regular basis towards the end of the 2017 season.
Together, the duo have won four ARCA and eight Truck Series races. Something about their relationship just works, even if they have a shouting match over the radio.
“We have that relationship where I can get on him and yell at him about doing something or making constant mistakes, and he learns from them because he respects me,” Stankiewicz said. “I respect him when he yells back at me because I‘m going to make mistakes, too.”
Creed agreed with Stankiewicz. There‘s no hard feeling when they argue over the radio.
He said, “For a lack of better words, I can tell him the racecar sucks and he‘s not going to get butthurt about it. And he can tell me he didn‘t like the way I drove this race and we build off of that.”
Their relationship didn’t start off well, though. When driving for MDM Motorsports in 2017, Creed qualified 14th at Chicagoland Speedway and wrecked out on lap 2, finishing 31st. But it quickly got better.
“I don‘t think he thought much of me at the time, and I don‘t know how much I thought of him,” Stankiewicz added. “The next weekend, we go out to Kentucky [Speedway] and we regrouped, fastest in practice, sat on the pole, led the most laps and we just clicked that weekend. Everything was great from that moment on.”
Along the way, a lot of trust has been built between the pair. So much so that during his 2018 championship winning season, Creed babysat Stankiewicz’s daughter because he was running late at the race shop.
“He loaded her up with ice cream, candy and chocolates,” Stankiewicz said of Creed’s babysitting rituals. “He took her out for ice cream and then they had to go to the bank because he had to do something and she got all the lollipops she could get. Then, he took her to the gas station and she got more candy. She was wired when I got home and I‘m pretty sure she was jumping off the back of the couch when I opened the door.”
For Creed’s rookie season, he’s hoping to win as quickly and as much as possible. But that’s every racer’s goal, right?
Prior to his first full season on the tour, Creed made a grand total of four Xfinity starts, two of which he doesn’t believe he can take much from when driving for JD Motorsports. Last fall at Phoenix Raceway, he earned his first top-10 finish, driving an RCR-prepared car for BJ McLeod Motorsports.
From working closely with Creed the last handful of years, Stankiewicz knows his driver will need to adapt to the new racecars. But once he does, look out.
“With the equipment we have and his talent, once he figures it out and knows his limit of this racecar, I think he‘s going to be hard to beat at these places,” Stankiewicz stated. “He may wreck a few times to figure it out, but he‘s going to give it 100% every lap. And I feel like once he finds that limit and knows how hard he can race and how to get to the end of these races, he‘s going to be tough to beat week in and week out.”
Creed, though, doesn’t want to put expectations on the season. The crew chief wants at least one pole and potentially a couple of wins throughout the season.
Like Stankiewicz said, Creed wants to figure out the car, so he can gradually get more competitive throughout the season.
“I want to just go run and get finishes that we earn,” Creed said. “Just go race and learn how to race. If that‘s racing for a win next weekend, that‘s great. If we‘re racing for 10th next weekend, we‘re learning.
“I would love to make the playoffs, make the final four and have a shot at the championship. I don‘t know if we‘ll do another year of Xfinity, I don‘t know what opportunities will arise for next year. I would love to go Cup racing within the next two years, so we‘ll start working at that.”
In the 2022 season opener at Daytona, Creed earned his best career finish of sixth. His RCR teammate, Hill, won the race.