NASCAR Truck Champion Sheldon Creed Put in The Work in 2020

Sheldon Creed is self-aware.

“I’m just trying to make a name for myself,” Creed said after winning the Triple Truck Challenge earlier in the summer. “I tear up a lot of shit and I have to give my all every time I’m in the truck.”

The 23-year-old has walked a fine line between consistency and reckless abandon over the past decade. It’s the sort of driving style he could get away with in 2018 when he won the ARCA Racing Series championship but one that he knows is not as tenable as he continues to climb the NASCAR ladder.

“I got away with a lot in ARCA,” Creed said on Friday night. “You can drive the car sideways more underneath people and the air is not as bad.

“That’s where I struggled the most, racing around people, just being hot-headed in the middle of the race and not making good decisions. … I just focused on how I can outsmart everyone around me and outrace people.”

His rookie season was something akin to a wake-up call — going winless and finishing 10th in the championship standings and missing the playoffs.

NASCAR Cup Series veteran Josh Wise serves as a driver coach and fitness advisor for the Chevrolet development drivers, which Creed is certainly part of at GMS Racing. Creed spent much of the winter and then the summer putting in the work with Wise after the challenges of 2019.

Together, they review restarts, pit road sequences and overall race craft. Creed has worked on his diet and conditioning to make him a better athlete behind the wheel.

The work paid off on Friday at Phoenix Raceway, winning the championship with an assist from a late caution and a masterful restart on new tires, but make no mistake — Creed’s entire work is starting to come together.

“I feel like Josh has helped Sheldon immensely,” GMS Racing president Mike Beam said. “He’s just learned how to race. His car control is amazing.

“He’s improved in every aspect of driving. Pit road, just everything … He’s messed-up enough stuff over the last year and a half, he did learn. He’s just become a student of the sport. … He’s worked hard at it. He knows he wants to go Cup racing.”

He won five times in 2020, best in the division, one more than Grant Enfinger but with less consistency overall than Brett Moffitt or Austin Hill. It was enough to make the championship race, and with NASCAR’s current championship format, what happens there is often a matter of fortune.

It was a championship caliber season regardless of what happened with one chaotic finish.

The point is that Creed is starting to find the balance between aggression and consistency and that will be important as he continues to climb the NASCAR ladder.

After winning the ARCA championship with crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz, Creed was paired with veteran engineer Doug Randolph. When Creed started to revert back to his overly aggressive ways, Stankiewicz was again called upon to provide a familiar voice to the No. 2 team.

“When we first started working together in ARCA, he was fast,” Stankiewicz said. “He had a lot of speed, bouncing off walls. We sat on several poles that year, leading races. Huge leads, run it into the wall, take us out of the race.

“It took him a while to understand what he needed to do to win an ARCA championship. In 2018 he got focused. He understood what he needed to do and did it. I think we ran 20 races that year. We finished in the top five 18 times. That was a big accomplishment for him to do that.”

Stankiewicz said that Creed entered the Truck Series with too much confidence.

“Last year he had to go through a huge learning curve,” Stankiewicz said. “He had to finish races. Made some mistakes, wrecked some trucks. Over this off‑season, working with Josh Wise, Josh has been an amazing help to Sheldon. He’s getting more and more better with his race craft through Josh. Just everything he does as far as his physical and mental aspect of the sport, what he has to do.

“As he gets older, he’s getting more mature. I see that just away from the racetrack. He understands what it takes. He knows there’s people watching him right now. He’s focused. He’s trying to do the best he can.”

Creed will spend another season in Trucks with GMS next season. There, having already clinched a championship, he will now just focus on refining the rough edges, and perhaps becoming more ready for Saturdays and Sundays.

“At this level, being young, a kid still, it’s like we’re in college right now,” Creed said. “You’re in class every day. Racing against my teammates for rides really. Incredibly talented, Brett Moffitt, everyone. All the kids on other teams, you’re racing them for the next chance, right?

“There’s very few Cup rides open. Just racing for that opportunity. Just giving my best every week.”

Creed took one big step forward this summer.

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