By Cole Cusumano, Staff Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Sheldon Creed ended the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season finale at Kansas Speedway on a high note by scoring a podium finish and qualifying for his first playoff appearance as the eight-seed in his sophomore season.
But his work at the 1.5-mile track is far from done.
For his 140th national series start, Creed is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut in the Hollywood Casino 400 driving the No. 78 for Live Fast Motorsports. Following a gutsy third-place effort on Saturday, the 25-year-old walked away feeling more prepared to suit up on Sunday.
“I think there was a lot to learn there,” Creed said. “I probably was a little over committed to the top at the beginning of the race – especially on the short-run. I think I gave myself up and I lost a couple spots because of it.”
In addition to getting a feel for the track and how it both picked up and laid down rubber, the 2020 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion’s main takeaway from the Kansas Lottery 300 was bracing for a longer day behind the wheel.
Courtesy of 10 cautions, the Xfinity Series race ran 15 minutes shy of completing the scheduled 200 laps in three hours. Earlier this year, the Cup Series nearly eclipsed the three-and-a-half-hour mark through 267 laps at Kansas – the same distance they’ll be running this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to it, but it’s going to be long. I thought 200 (laps) was long, so 267 will be even longer. I just want to go have fun and learn as much as I can.”
Luckily for Creed, he was able to turn some laps in the Next Gen car during a 20-minute practice session prior to the Xfinity race on Saturday. He logged the fourth-most laps at 26 and posted the 34th-fastest time ahead of Cup-regular Ty Dillon driving for Spire Motorsports and Cole Custer filling in for Rick Ware Racing.
“I got to do a lot of simulator laps, but it’s just not the real thing,” Creed said. “I didn’t know how hard to drive it in the beginning of practice. You can drive the Cup cars really hard. They have a ton of grip until they don’t, and I think that’s when you’re seeing people spin. I didn’t want to find that edge quite yet and go to a back-up car my first time in it.”
Looking ahead to the Hollywood Casino 400, Creed will roll off 34th after putting down a lap 1.2 seconds off the pace from pole-sitter Christopher Bell. Starting only ahead of Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs, there’s no place for the Californian to go than up in his Cup debut.
“If I can run mid-pack and earn some respect from those guys, I’ll be happy,” Creed concluded.