By Dustin Albino

LONG POND, Pa. — At times, Sheldon Creed‘s rookie season in the Xfinity Series has been one to forget. Much was expected entering this year from the 2020 Camping World Truck Series champion. 

The transition to a new series, with a car that has more horsepower and less downforce, has been a bigger challenge than what was expected. 

“You go from trucks and having a shot at winning every week (in trucks) to we‘ve showed up and straight up run 15th all day,” Creed said. “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 guys have been hard on themselves.”

Through the first 17 races of the season, Creed had earned just six top-10 finishes, with a best effort of sixth in the season opener at Daytona. But over the last two races, the No. 2 team has flipped the switch. 

When Landon Cassill and Noah Gragson were disqualified from last weekend‘s race at New Hampshire, it bumped Creed up to fifth in the finishing order — a unique way to earn his first top five. In Saturday‘s Explore The Pocono Mountains 225 at Pocono, the No. 2 Chevrolet was a mainstay at the front, scoring top-five finishes in both stages. 

During the second half of the race, no freak accidents, bad luck or mistakes hindered Creed, giving him his second consecutive top-five finish. 

“I think last week was great for us,” Creed said following the race, “and I think [Saturday] was adding on top of that.

“We kind of had a gimme top five [at New Hampshire]. “We ran in the top five all day. I love that for my team. It gives us confidence and gives me a reason not to be angry when I go home and be pissed off for the next six days and something to work towards.”

The momentum runs even longer than the last two races. Though Creed placed 12th at Atlanta, he led 16 laps, the most he‘s led in a race this season. Prior to that, he had five DNFs in his previous eight races, dropping him to 17th in the championship standings. 

But over the last three races, Creed has tallied 112 points. In his previous races, collectively, the No. 2 team earned a total of 120 points. 

The recent surge has moved Creed to 13th in points, just 47 markers behind Cassill for the final playoff spot. In the last two weeks alone, he‘s gained 48 points on the bubble. 

“We‘re not going to go fire off and win one,” Creed added. “I think we need to start with top fives and running top five all day and maybe we can get a win in the final [seven races of the regular season]. I think we have a shot at pointing our way in if we can keep racing like we did today, I think we can catch [Ryan Sieg] in points. But I don‘t even want to think about that. I want to focus on growing with the team and would love to get a win.”

Looking forward, Creed is excited about the two upcoming road course races at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen. At Portland in June, the No. 2 car showed top-five speed before getting involved in a multi-car pileup on a restart. He‘s also excited for Michigan on the horizon. 

“I think the road courses are going to be something that we circle in the next six,” Creed said. “I have some really good tracks coming up. We‘re going to keep growing; we really want to win and get ourselves in the playoffs.”

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