By Cole Cusumano
AVONDALE, Ariz. — In the shades of Apollo, Sheldon Creed fought hard all night in a heavy-weight battle for the ages to win his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title. The 23-year-old went the distance against his GMS Racing teammates, Zane Smith and Brett Moffitt, as well as Grant Enfinger in a true test of stealth and strategy.
When it appeared Creed’s teammate, Moffitt, was preparing to deliver the final blow after leading a race-high 78 laps, a caution came out with three to go and this enabled the No. 2 team to take their shot. Crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz made the call to get fresh tires before the overtime restart, in which the 2018 ARCA Series Champion lined up ninth.
“When it comes to restarts, I wouldn’t want anybody other than Sheldon Creed driving that thing,” Stankiewicz said. “He gets after it. He’s a maniac on restarts. He gets everything you can. We’ve won a couple races this year because of his restarts. To see that caution come out was a relief for us. I knew we were back in the game at that point.”
Creed channeled the eye of the tiger by bobbing and weaving his way masterfully through a scattered field and capturing his fifth win of the season when the bell rang. The series-leading victor had the best crew in his corner all season and it proved to be the difference-maker tonight.
“GMS is probably the biggest truck team, and they just have so many tools and resources,” Creed told POPULAR SPEED. “I feel like Chevy’s engineers have been getting better. The simulator has been getting better. Everyone is on the same page and working well together.
“It took all last year. I feel like our trucks had speed, but not what they do right now. Just the fab shop trying things, building really good chassis. The guys in the shop putting ideas together and executing. I can only go as fast as I can driving. The truck has to go fast also. The trucks have been incredibly fast this year. That’s at least 50% of it.”
In the end, Creed and the No. 2 team took a chance with their back against the ropes that landed them in victory lane and cemented their place in the history books. The first-time NASCAR National Series Champion will have a chance to defend his title next year, once again driving for GMS Racing.
For now, it’s all about taking in the moment and celebrating this momentous accomplishment. Creed stated in his post-race press conference he will be partying at the campgrounds of Phoenix Raceway with his team and family, and they will be taking a trip to Lake Havasu following the race weekend.