On Sept. 10, Frontstretch spoke with Sheldon Creed – the full-time driver of Richard Childress Racing No. 2 NASCAR Xfinity Series entry – on the morning prior to his Cup Series debut in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway with Live Fast Motorsports. We discussed his thoughts heading into the debut and the strides the No. 2 team has made in Xfinity along with his love for racing outside of NASCAR.
Stephen Stumpf: Before we get into the Cup debut, it’s now year two with Richard Childress Racing in the No. 2 car. You’ve been paired with Jeff Stankiewicz (crew chief). How would you describe the progression you guys have made since your first start with them at Daytona in 2022?
Sheldon Creed: I mean, we’ve come a long way. I feel like we started to hit a stride at the end of last year, and started this year pretty strong and then, I don’t know, we kind of fell off there you know, mid-year and started to struggle there. But I feel like we’ve started to hit a stride again and we’ve got what, three top fives in the last four races. So, starting to roll pretty good.
Obviously, a lot of things we need to work on to keep up with some other cars on track, I think that goes for our teammate and us. I think we finished third and fifth Saturday (Sept. 9), so we can definitely be better. But yeah, we’ve come a long way.
And I think, you know, myself just trying to be a smarter racecar driver. There were times where I wasn’t making smart decisions and taking us out of the races or making our finish worse than it needed to be. Just been trying to work on that with myself lately, and mainly just taking what the car gives me, because it gets irritating when you run eighth to 10th every week and you want more – and you know you can do more – [but] you’re just kind of limited. So, just been trying to take what it gives lately.
Q: And then you won a Truck title (2020), won eight races in that series. What’s the differences between the Truck Series and Xfinity Series and was there a learning curve in driving the Xfinity car?
Creed: You’re taking another step from Trucks to Xfinity just with competition in general. You got a couple guys (in Trucks) that have been there 20 years and a few that have been there five, six years, but most of the kids are coming from late models and ARCA cars. So, it’s just a good steppingstone for them and learning.
And when you get good at the truck, you feel like you’re going to be good at anything, right? Then you go to the next level and it’s, now you’re not racing 10 guys that are capable, you’re racing 15 to 20. And I think one thing about Xfinity that gets overlooked is there’s guys in cars that you know, are 15th-20th place cars that are really good racecar drivers. And it makes it that much harder, right when you’re on an off day and you know, they might hit it good and have a good day. It just makes it harder, and you can’t make the little mistakes that you kind of get away with in Trucks. So yeah, it’s been it’s been a lot of learning. And I’m sure going to Cup is going to be that same jump, now you’re racing 30 guys that are capable.
Q: You qualified for the Xfinity playoffs for the first time [in 2023]. How important is that in year two?
Creed: That was our goal last year. That was really frustrating and disappointing to not make it. I know we had some good runs there right before the playoffs last year that almost got our way in, but honestly, there’s too many mistakes on my part and probably struggle with the car a lot, too. But yeah, that was a bummer to not make it last year. So, to make it this year is important to us, and with some momentum we’ve got going, I really think we can make a strong run at it here.
Q: You’re still chasing your first [Xfinity] win but finished second five times. I know it’s a stat that you probably don’t want to hear, but is there any races that were the ones that got away? And with the seven races left [this season], are there any tracks you have a good feeling about coming up?
Creed: Yeah, I mean, there’s a handful that have gotten away. Honestly, the playoff schedule this year is really good. Bristol, Texas. Roll the first round and then we go [Las] Vegas, Homestead, Martinsville. So, this first round I think we have a shot at all three of them, but at the end of the day, we just need to finish through this first round and have good points days.
The second round, I got Vegas and Homestead circled. If I can’t win at Vegas, I think I’m going to have a really good shot at Homestead. Just running the wall, and I feel like I’m pretty solid at that. I feel like I did a good job of it yesterday at the end. I just fired off really free yesterday. So, when the wall came in, it was really good. And and I love that about Homestead. So, if we make to the Round of 8, those are the two I have circled that we can win at.
Q: Yesterday I interviewed Austin Hill post-race, and he said that you guys may race each other harder than teammates normally would, but that you guys are also close off the track. Describe that relationship.
Creed: We butted heads a lot in Trucks because we both raced each other hard, and obviously, we raced for different manufacturers and teams. So yeah, it probably escalated a few times. But as soon as we became teammates, I feel like we’re very similar in a few different ways. We both try hard, and we both race hard. And yesterday we were kind of going at it, he was a little better on the short run and I was a lot better on the long run. I wasn’t trying to give up track position and he was a little better, and so we end up racing pretty hard there on a couple different restarts. But I thought it was super clean and it wasn’t like we were hindering each other. We’ve done that a few times and we always get out laughing about it. So, all good.
Q: Now it’s your Cup debut. You’ve got Whelen (sponsor) onboard, you’re with Live Fast Motorsports. What’s the emotions going into it? Excited? Nervous? A combination of both?
Creed: Yeah, obviously, it’s really exciting right to make a Cup debut. I didn’t know what to think about it, to be honest. Yesterday, I’d never driven the car. That’s the hardest part about NASCAR right now is no testing. No, none of this. It’s so expensive to go do any of that anyway that no one really has money unless you’re a top team to go do it. That part’s a little frustrating, like I wish we could have gone and tested and at least got a feel for the car for the day. You only get simulator laps which, I don’t know, I feel like at the top of this level, like you’re going to send kids into Cup cars, it might help giving a test day here and there.
But no, I feel like I fired off practice. Obviously, I was slow, and then I felt like I got pretty comfortable, and my lap times were decent. And then qualifying, I just honestly under drove it, like way under drove it. Didn’t even roll all the way out of the throttle there and thought I had a decent lap, but [the Next Gen cars] just have so much grip that I was not ready for.
And going from the Xfinity car where you have like no grip and you’re slipping and sliding around to the Cup car, I just didn’t have a good feel for how much grip it was going to have. I was actually talking about yesterday; I think it’s actually easier to go from a truck to the Cup car because the truck has so much more grip and kind of drives similar in a way. But no, I’m looking forward to it today. Going to go learn as much as I can starting in the back, so yeah, hopefully we can go past cars and race up through there.
Creed: Yeah, I’ve talked to both Kyle and Austin. Austin Hill, Zane Smith [now] that he’s run some this year. I’ve talked to so many people, Ross [Chastain], just trying to get opinions and what they feel and what they think. I feel like some had really good things to say and some were like, ‘oh, they’re scary and do weird things.’ So, I didn’t know what to think going into practice, but I feel a lot better about it now and I feel like it drives pretty decent, I don’t know, it may not. But yeah, I’m sure I’m going to talk to other people before the day’s over and just try to go learn as much as I can, not get any of the playoff guys’ way and just want to go have a solid, solid race.
Q: Before NASCAR you did a bunch of off-road racing. You did the Stadium Super Trucks, you competed in the Baja 1000, the Dakar Rally. Since making the switch to NASCAR full time, how much have you been able to do or compete in those divisions?
Creed: When I was racing Trucks, I was still able to go do some stadium truck stuff here and there. The truck schedule is only 22 races a year. Now going to Xfinity, it’s 33, so it takes away a lot of weekends during the summer while I was able to go and kind of dabble in some of that stuff still. Which I would love to go run more of it.
I’m honestly more into dirt circle track stuff now. I have my own micro sprint. So, I try to do that. You know, not all the time but often, and kind of run some local stuff at Millbridge [Speedway], but now I’m starting to travel and just trying to hit big shows when it fits the schedule. We have Talladega off at the end of the month, so I’m going to go run a weekend in Indiana there with the car. And yeah, I’m just super into like dirt sprint cars and late models and would love to do that stuff.
Q: My next question was going to be were there any other forms of motorsport you were interested in trying? You answered that, but with dirt sprint cars is there any prestigious races you’d like to try and compete in one day?
Creed: I would, if I went dirt sprint car racing, I’d want to go run like winged 360s to start, maybe some 410 stuff. I don’t know. I think I’d be more interested in like dirt late models, but I have a lot of fun with the micros now. And now with having my son, I plan on getting him into junior sprints when he’s old enough, and kind of what Kyle and Brexton [Busch] do, we can go travel around and run together in the same races. I think something I haven’t done that I would love to do is that Nitro Rallycross. Those look really fun and something that I think I’d be pretty good at.
Q: Any hobbies you have outside of racing, and what does the day in the life look like when you’re not at the track?
Creed: I mean, during the week, I feel like there’s no days off, especially when you’re racing Cup. Those guys have zero days off, or at least we get Sundays. The Mondays is usually just workout, meetings. Tuesdays is workouts, Wednesday’s workouts, Thursday’s workouts and meetings, and then Friday we’re usually traveling, and maybe practice [and] qualifying. But hobbies, I love wake surfing on the lake. Love mountain biking. Anything action sports the family and I love to do and have a lot of fun with that.
Q: I’ll end this by circling back to Xfinity. You guys have really turned it on, you’re knocking on the door of a win. Is the expectation for everyone to return to the No. 2 car in 2024?
Creed: Yeah, I think so right now. Yeah. Nothing’s signed yet. But yeah, I don’t predict any changes.
Creed went on to finish 29th in his Cup Series debut. He opened his Xfinity Series playoff campaign with an 11th-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway the following week, and he currently sits four points above the cut line with two races left in the Round of 12.
About the author
Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.
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