DARLINGTON, S.C.—Sheldon Creed continued his postseason winning streak at Darlington Raceway on Sunday.
After winning four of the last five races in the Playoffs—including the first two in 2021 and the season finale to win the 2020 championship—Creed held off John Hunter Nemechek over the final 26 laps in the In It To Win It 200.
Creed’s eighth win of the season provided the No. 2 GMS Racing team with a two-point advantage over Nemechek with five races to decide the Camping World Truck Championship.
“Way to start off the Playoffs,” said Creed, who led 104 of the 147 laps. “Man, we started out our day really, really loose, and I was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re in trouble here.’
“The guys worked on it. The pit crew killed it all day.”
Nemechek finished second to clinch a spot in the Round of 10 on points, but he had nothing for Creed at the end.
"Just super hard to pass," Nemechek said. "Same thing as last fall, same thing we fight in the Truck Series every week. I don’t know, we have to do a little bit better – think we could have controlled the race. They weren’t going to get by us. We made a last-ditch effort. Proud of all the KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) guys – Mobil 1, Toyota, TRD and everyone who helps. Just have to say thank you.
"This one hurts. We had the dominant truck here in the spring and came back and ran second here today. On to Bristol. We should be starting first or second. Hopefully, we can go get a win there. The only thing that matters is that we locked ourselves into the next round today. That’s all it is. The eyes are set on the prize. We want to win every single week, but there is a big trophy at the end of the year that means the most.”
Stewart Friesen came from 14th on the Lap 116 restart to finish third followed by Todd Gilliland, Parker Kligerman, Grant Enfinger, Chandler Smith, Johnny Sauter, Zane Smith and Matt Crafton.
Nemechek scored the Stage 1 win but Creed to the lead out of the pits for the Lap 52 restart. Chandler Smith took the lead from Creed on Lap 64 but his time at the point was short-lived. Ben Rhodes, who sustained damage after running into the back of Creed’s truck on the Lap 21 restart, went three-wide between Jack Wood and Kris Wright racing for 25th to trigger the fifth caution on Lap 67.
Creed regained the lead in the pits before the Lap 72 restart with Carson Hocevar alongside. Three laps later, Nemechek moved from third to second to battle Creed again. Despite a rash of tire issues—including Dylan Lupton, Tanner Gray and Austin Wayne Self—Creed held serve for the second stage win. Chandler Smith finished second with Nemechek, Crafton and Hocevar in tow.
Coming to the pits, Zane Smith came across the front end of Crafton's truck after he was warned the No. 88 Tundra had no brakes. Smith was sideways in his pits and Crafton dropped from fourth to 17th for the Lap 98 restart. Six laps later, Derek Kraus clipped Lawless Alan to cause the seventh caution. Hailie Deegan, who was running 18th, was collected in the incident.
Josh Reume ignited the eighth and final caution after he spun out of Turn 4 on Lap 111. Creed elected to take the bottom lane for the final restart with Chandler Smith on the outside. Nemechek methodically moved up to second on Lap 121. With new tires, Friesen gained seven spots in the same five laps and eventually caught Nemechek on Lap 135.
“Great day for the Halmar team – thanks to Chris Larson for everything," Friesen said. "He’s always been there for me in my career. It was cool –- our best run for HFR, proud of that. Another good day for us. We got off sequence and we just fought a loose condition all day.
"Got off sequence and got those tires and we thought we might have something. They just kind of equalized at the end and I could just chameleon the guys in front of me and not really do anything more with it. Proud of my guys, good momentum for us.”
But the battle between the Nos. 4 and 52 trucks enabled Creed to extend his lead by .531-seconds at the finish line.
“We’ve had a tough season, but we’re finding it at the right time,” said Creed, who won for the third time in 2021. “It feels so good to go back-to-back wins…Got to put the pressure on the other guys. I had really nothing to lose coming in, and we’ve got fast trucks.
“I had to work for that one. The KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) trucks were moving there in the short run. Even in the long runs, I thought they were better than us. Just track position—I could kind of go where I wanted when I was in front. If I got behind them, I was going to be in big trouble.”