Rookie Sheldon Creed maintained his hopes of remaining eligible to make the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with an 11th-place run in the rain-shortened Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, September 10.
The 2020 Camping World Truck Series champion from Alpine, California, survived a roller coaster event in Kansas that started off on a positive note when he rolled off the grid in third place after posting the third-fastest qualifying lap on Friday. Through the first 10 laps, however, Creed had fallen out of the top five as he was mired in an on-track battle with teammate Austin Hill for sixth place. He was then scored in ninth place by Lap 20 while continuing to lose spots on the track while wrangling with handling issues to his No. 2 Whelen Chevrolet Camaro.
Despite the early handling issues, Creed managed to settle in 14th place following the first stage’s conclusion on Lap 45. He went on to conclude the second stage scheduled on Lap 90 in 11th place in front of teammate Hill, which was where he would ultimately end up in the final scoreboard when NASCAR ruled the event official on Lap 93 of 200 due to increasing precipitation.
With his 14th top-15 result of the season and his seventh in nine recent events, Creed, who came into Kansas trailing the top-12 cutline to make the Playoffs by 16 points, accumulated three points as he trails the cutline by 13 points behind Ryan Sieg, who finished 14th.
“I had a lot more confidence in [the car] that I thought what we had today,” Creed said on USA Network. “We fired off [the race] there. I thought we were really good and then, I don’t know, went to really bad when the track started building rubber. I tried so many different things. [I] Just couldn’t get anything to work or make speed. I don’t know where we missed it. [We] Just weren’t as good as thought as we were. Looks like we gained three points. [I] Wished we could’ve finished this one. Maybe play [pit] strategy. I don’t think we had the speed to win today, but maybe, could’ve played it differently and got a better finish and maybe, got a bigger gap to [Ryan Sieg] and us.”
Creed’s current status in vying for a spot to the 2022 Xfinity Playoffs comes amid a roller coaster start to his first full-time campaign in the Xfinity circuit, where he replaced Myatt Snider to pilot the No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing following three full-time seasons in the Truck Series. Despite commencing the season in sixth place at Daytona International Speedway in February, Creed could only record five additional top-10 results through the following 16 scheduled events. Mired within the early top-10 results were nine results outside of the top 20, five DNFs and a four-race suspension handed to Creed’s crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz, car chief Kris McCabe and team engineer Sam Bowers due to a dropped ballast during a practice session at Martinsville Speedway in April.
Since July, the tides began to turn in favor of Creed, who led 16 laps and finished 12th at Atlanta Motor Speedway before he recorded a pair of fifth-place results at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and at Pocono Raceway, respectively. Then during last weekend’s event at Darlington Raceway, Creed was within striking distance of claiming his first Xfinity victory at Darlington Raceway before he was overtaken by Noah Gragson on the final lap after losing his momentum while scrapping the outside wall to the finish and settled in a career-best second place.
Ultimately, Creed went from recording an average-finishing result of 20.6 through the first 16-scheduled events to an average-finishing result of 11.3 during the previous 10 events, including his 11th-place result at Kansas. With his focus set for next weekend’s regular-season finale at Bristol, Creed’s bid to make the Playoffs comes down to either winning at Bristol or gaining 13 points on Ryan Sieg.
“We’re just gonna go and do our best,” Creed added. “We’re gonna show up with the best car that we can and treat it like we’re going to the Final Four [round]. We just need to go and be on our A game at Bristol. We need to go practice good, we need to qualify good, we need to get max stage points and give ourselves a shot at the win at the end.”
Creed’s final bid to make the 2022 Xfinity Series Playoffs is set to occur at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday, September 16, which marks the final regular-season event of the season. The event is scheduled to commence at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.