Sheldon Creed has gotten off to the best start imaginable in the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. After scoring a win in the opening race of the Playoffs at Gateway, Creed followed it up with yet another win in Sunday’s In it to Win it 200 at Darlington Raceway.
“What a way to open the Playoffs, right?” Creed said. “Just started our day really, really loose. I was like, oh no, we’re in trouble here, but the guys worked on it. The pit crew killed it all day.”
Creed, who led a race-high 104 laps and scored the Stage 2 win en route to victory, held off John Hunter Nemechek and a hard charging Stewart Friesen in the closing laps of the race.
Following capturing the win, Creed dedicated the win to the 13 service members killed in Afghanistan as the U.S. Military ended the 20-year war.
“This one’s for the families of the 13 service members we lost last week,” Creed explained. “Just want to thank everyone for our freedom and letting us race like this.”
Nemechek, the championship favorite heading into the Playoffs, still hasn’t won a race since the Playoffs began, but he led 39 laps on Sunday and scored a Stage 1 win in a runner-up performance. According to Nemechek, he had a fast truck, just couldn’t overcome the clean-air advantage that Creed enjoyed.
“Clean air. It’s simple. Just clean air,” Nemechek said. “I felt like we had a really good truck all day. Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra was fast from the start. We were actually able drive up, actually pass those guys for the lead. We lost the lead on pit road in the first stop. Then lost another spot after that at the end of Stage 2. Kind of just is what it is. At least we clinched our way into the next round and advanced, that’s really all that matters right now.”
With a 67-point advantage on the Playoff cutoff, exiting Darlington, Nemechek has joined Creed in advancing to the second round of the 2021 Playoffs.
Friesen, who hasn’t won yet this season, has gotten his Playoffs started with back-to-back top-four runs. While he didn’t have the best truck all race long, he was there when it mattered most.
“We fought a loose condition all day, couldn’t get it better,” Friesen explained. “Got off sequence and got some tires there. Almost skunked one out there, but got caught up in lapped traffic. So, good points day for us and some great momentum.”
Behind Creed, Nemechek and Friesen was Todd Gilliland in fourth and Parker Kligerman was the highest non-Playoff contender with a solid fifth-place finish in the No. 75 truck.
Grant Enfinger, Chandler Smith, Johnny Sauter, Zane Smith and Matt Crafton rounded out the top-10 finishers on Sunday.
Carson Hocevar (11th), Austin Hill (12th) and Ben Rhodes (34th) were the only Playoff contenders to finish outside the top-10 in the race.
Rhodes suffered damage on lap 19, when he slammed into the rear of Creed on a restart. From there, Rhodes’ day continued to unravel.
On lap 66, Rhodes triggered a three-truck crash by overdriving into turns 3 and 4.
Here are the 2021 NASCAR Truck Series Playoff Standings After Darlington:
- Sheldon Creed (Advances, 2 wins)
- John Hunter Nemechek (Advances on points)
- Matt Crafton, +35 points
- Stewart Friesen, +33 points
- Ben Rhodes, +15 points
- Todd Gilliland, +11 points
- Carson Hocevar, +8 points
- Austin Hill, +5 points
- Zane Smith, -5 points
- Chandler Smith, -12 points
Results / Standings
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.