With Kyle Busch eliminated from the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, Richard Childress Racing’s hopes of bringing home championship hardware rested on its NASCAR Xfinity Series duo of Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill.
In the penultimate race of the season at Martinsville Speedway, RCR found itself 1-2 with a handful of laps remaining. Creed was far enough behind in points that he needed a win to advance in the Championship 4. Hill had a chance at making the Championship 4 on points if he finished second, but a win was the only way to guarantee his entry as well.
It’s the white-flag lap of the Dead On Tools 250, and both Creed and Hill are battling side-by-side heading into the final set of turns. And then, disaster.
It was a perfect storm of worst-case scenarios. Creed and Hill got together in the final set of corners and that allowed Justin Allgaier — who was out of the playoffs as he ran in third — to sneak under Creed out of turn 4 and take the win by a fender. Creed came 0.032 seconds away from punching his ticket to Phoenix with his first Xfinity win and Hill failed to advance on points after a 21st-place DNF in the final corner.
RCR was roughly eight seconds away from sending either one or both of its cars to the Championship 4. Instead, it sent neither.
The team immediately self-destructed.
It wasn’t just Hill going at it. You even had Andy Petree, RCR’s vp of competition, shouting at Creed after he climbed out of the car.
Hill and Petree both took issue with Creed supposedly brake checking Hill out of turn 4, which stacked up the field and allowed Hill to be swept up into the Big One. The supposed brake check also stalled the No. 2 car’s momentum and allowed Allgaier to get by, so the team didn’t even get a win out of the ordeal.
What did Creed have to say regarding the conversation with Petree?
“Roles reversed, they (RCR) don’t say anything,” he said.
Team owner Richard Childress also shared his thoughts post-race and he put Creed on blast. “I’ve had drivers drive for me before but nobody as stupid as Sheldon Creed,” he told NBC Sports.
To put all of the post-Martinsville madness into context, Creed and Hill have been teammates since the start of 2022. It came as a shock in early October when Creed announced that he was not returning RCR’s No. 2 car and he now looks poised to join Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity program in 2024 (this news was rumored but not announced until Hill spilled the beans in his post-race interview; JGR still has not officially revealed the move).
Hill has scored six Xfinity wins since 2022 while Creed is still searching for his first despite six runner-up finishes in his RCR tenure.
But it doesn’t matter that Creed is leaving at the end of the season and it doesn’t matter that Hill has outperformed Creed in their time as teammates. A team owner calling an outgoing driver the stupidest he’s ever had (while he still has one more race left with the team, no less) is a bad look. What does it say to prospective drivers when RCR unceremoniously kicks one of its own drivers to the curb before their tenure is even over?
Nothing good. And sure, all of this happened in the heat of the moment in response to a heartbreaking finish. But sometimes, all the pieces of the puzzle aren’t clear in the immediate aftermath of a soul-crushing defeat; that’s exactly what happened in this case.
The supposed brake check by Creed out of turn 4? That was caused by a mechanical failure on the No. 2 car after Hill and Creed traded paint heading into turn 3 (to this point, there was smoke coming out of the right-front of the No. 2 car when Creed stalled out in the middle of turn 4). There was no malicious intent from either driver in the incident; it was just a matter of fierce racing for the win that went haywire.
Petree, who had already reached out to apologize to Creed before the mechanical failure was found, made an appearance on NASCAR Race Hub to say that he regretted how he handled the situation.
I’ll give props to Petree. He may have handled the Martinsville post-race in the wrong way, but he owned up to it and has tried to make amends with Creed. It’s not easy for someone to admit on air that they were in the wrong, especially when the incident in question went viral after the race.
Petree may have broken his silence, but what about Childress, who called Creed the dumbest driver he’s worked with in light of an incident that was caused by a mechanical failure?
It’s unknown what Creed and Childress have said to each other in the aftermath of the Martinsville finish. Maybe the two have made amends and are on good terms, maybe they aren’t. But nothing said between the two has been made public knowledge since Saturday.
It’s important to remember that Childress has no obligation to apologize; if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to.
But when it comes to recruiting future drivers to RCR and public impressions of team morale, his silence in the aftermath of Martinsville is deafening.
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.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.