Race Weekend Central

Eyes on Xfinity: Is Sheldon Creed a Choke Artist?

Another Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway, another win for Austin Hill.

The dominance of ‘Big Country’ should be acknowledged, but it’s the driver who finished second that has my wheels turning.

Sheldon Creed has racked up 12 top fives in his winless Xfinity career. While it may seem like he’s always finishing behind Hill, Daytona was the first time he’s finished in the top five and behind Hill. This was Creed’s third consecutive second-place finish, a streak that started last October in that infamous race at Martinsville Speedway.

Creed is a champion of the ARCA Menards Series and the Craftsman Trucks Series. Now driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, his arrow is still pointed up, but he’s got a Harambe-sized gorilla on his back. A pattern has emerged where one could ask the question: is Creed a choke artist?

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The end of Monday Night’s race was bizarre. As Ryan Sieg spun in turn 2, Hill and Creed were the only drivers unimpeded by the wreck. Entering the backstretch, Creed was within a car length of Hill, who had cosmetic damage that likely had an impact on his top speed, especially without the speed of the draft.

Curiously, the gap between the two drivers widened significantly. The Fox TV crew did a great job putting up the telemetry and you saw Hill holding steady at 183 m.p.h. while Creed slowed down to 176.

With no caution, Hill’s damage, and the advantage of the draft on Creed’s side; Hill should’ve been a sitting duck. Instead, Creed let off the gas pedal and threw his chances away. Hill went on to win under green by over a half second, unheard of at Daytona. After the race, Creed provided two reasons for slowing.

In summary, he thought the caution was going to come out for Sieg’s spin and he wanted to back up to the field so he could get a push. The field was too far behind to be of any help after the wreck, and by the time he realized it, Hill was long gone.

What race car driver slows down at Daytona on the last lap with the lead in sight because they think there might be a caution? Hill sure didn’t. This was mind boggling. When you look at Creed’s Xfinity career, you will see other examples where he let wins get away.

Let’s take a look back at some of the near-misses for the 26-year-old from Alpine, Calif.

It started at Darlington Raceway in 2022, where Creed overachieved. He came into the race 13th in points on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Needing a win to lock in, Creed did an admirable job holding off Kyle Larson and Noah Gragson in the final laps.

On the final lap he got used up by Larson in turn 1, but he was able to hold the lead. In turn 3, Creed overdrove the corner and seemed to try Ross Chastain‘s video game wall riding move to win (before Chastain did it himself). But he overdrove enough to where his car got bogged down in the wall.

Despite hitting the wall himself, Gragson was able to scoot by easily and steal the win. Nobody could fault Creed too much for this one. He ran better than anyone expected and was racing for the win with the top driver in Xfinity along with the top driver in Cup. But he had a clear shot to win and missed. And so it began.

The next near-miss was in last year’s spring race at Talladega Superspeedway won by Jeb Burton. Creed ran second throughout the final overtime in near-dark conditions and never got himself into position to make a move on Burton.

This is where it started to get ugly.

Watkins Glen International. This race was known for the turn 1 skirmish between Sam Mayer and Ty Gibbs. What gets forgotten is that after that dust up, Creed pulled away with the lead. He kept it through the bus stop and looked ready to break through. Mayer trailed with older tires. Coming to the white flag Creed totally missed turn 7. Mayer blew past and took the lead and the win, old tires and all.

For the best example in this increasingly painful rundown, we only need to go forward six days. After Watkins Glen, the series went to Daytona. This was Creed’s closest call yet. One the final lap he surged ahead of Justin Allgaier and took the lead exiting turn 4.

The timing wasn’t quite right and Creed got out side-drafted by Allgaier, who won the race by 0.005 seconds.

Feeling sick yet?

That brings us to the penultimate race of last season at Martinsville. If you follow the Xfinity series even casually, you remember this one. Creed gently moved Hill up the track in turn 1 and took the lead on the last lap. Entering turn 3 from the preferred inside line, Creed pulled clear of Hill and then seemed to stand on the brakes in turn 4.

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The braking was profound enough to cause Hill to smash into the back of Creed and trigger a big pileup.

Allgaier had just smacked the wall coming out of turn 2, but with Creed’s hefty braking, Allgaier sailed past in the final turn and won the race. What nearly ended with both Richard Childress Racing drivers making the playoffs ended with both missing out.

Does this mean Creed is a choke artist?

I don’t feel good even asking that. I want to see him get Harambe off his back. But this is a clear pattern. A choke artist finds new ways to lose when the pressure is on in key moments. Is that what we’ve seen with Creed?

Maybe we’re being too harsh. Maybe there were circumstances at play in these races. Maybe Daytona was a by-product of his first race with a new team, new crew chief and new spotter.

Ever hear of the reverse jinx? We’re just one week into the season and here I am, throwing around an inflammatory term for a driver who seems like a nice guy. A reverse jinx is a theory that says when you say bad things about someone they will soon begin to do better. For Creed, coming off of three straight runner-up finishes, better only means one thing: winning.

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Creed has his best opportunity yet driving for JGR. There is a good chance he will win several races and make me sound silly for even asking the question.

If he doesn’t break through, the gorilla will get even heavier, and eventually I can envision crude memes pasted together showing former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller choking himself in Madison Square Garden, with Creed’s face on Miller’s body. For the good of humanity, I hope we never get there.

One week in the books. I can’t wait to share my love of the best series in motorsports with you all season long. Keep your eyes on Creed. On to Atlanta Motor Speedway!

About the author

Steve Leffew joined Frontstretch in 2023, and covers the Xfinity Series. He resides in Wisconsin and has been a NASCAR fan as long as he can remember. He has served honorably in the United States Air Force and works during the week as a Real Estate Lender.

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8 Comments
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Matty

Reggie Miller scored eight points in the last thirty seconds. It was the Knicks that choked in that series

Johnny Cuda

Steve,
Welcome to The Frontstretch. Thank you for your service to this great country.

RCFX1

So what did Creed say when he was asked about the speed decreasing?

sdelfin

Even with the damage, Hill’s car was faster than everyone else and he was leading the draft comfortably several times. I have no reason to think Creed had anything for him. And it’s worth mentioning that Andy Petree, who blew up at Creed after that Martinsville race, has since come out at least twice saying damage to the 2 car is what caused him to not be able to turn well leading to that wreck. The way I recall that road race, the one that Mayer won, Creed’s car wasn’t nearly as good as the other two involved with that finish so with that and being nervous I’m not surprised he overdrove it. Creed is developing some excellent consistency. Running second so often leads me to believe he’ll win very soon. I would not be shocked if he goes on a tear this season.

Last edited 1 month ago by sdelfin
TiminPayson

I love th fact that a guy who rode the pine at Wisconsin short tracks and watched races on tv can call anyone who actually races a choker

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