Defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed survived overtime to win Friday night’s Truck playoff opener at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis.
With his victory, Creed advances automatically to the Round of 8.
He dominated throughout the night and had the race in control with five laps to go in the scheduled 160-lap distance. But an incident involving fellow playoff driver Carson Hocevar and Tanner Gray sent the race into overtime.
Creed was up to the challenge, though. He quickly got away from his pursuers on the final restart and won by .292 of a second over Matt Crafton.
Entering Friday, Creed was coming off an up-and-down regular season; he was victorious at Darlington but suffered four finishes of 32nd or worse.
But he and his No. 2 GMS Racing team showed they were ready for the race to the championship.
“We’ve been working really hard all year – obviously, we haven’t had the speed at times and I’ve made mistakes at times,” Creed told FS1 in Victory Lane. “But we built this brand new truck and I feel like we’ve taken everything we’ve learned this year and just applied it here.
“… They gave us a hot rod today and I couldn’t be happier. My teammate (Zane Smith) showed me a few things when he got to the lead. The bottom was good on restarts, and then the top started coming in there at the end.
“I love late-race restarts. I didn’t want it. But when it came out, I was like, ‘All good’ – just focused and ready to execute.”
STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed
STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Friesen started the race last among the 10 playoff drivers in points, but his fourth-place finish gives him and his No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing team hope to advance to the next round … Hailie Deegan finished seventh to claim her first top 10 result in the Truck Series. She becomes the fourth woman to earn such a result in the series. “We’ve got to finish off this season strong,” she told FS1. “We’ve had a rough year. We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve had our good moments, had our not so good moments. To come out here and be able to get a good, solid finish and have something to build off of these next couple races to end the season – it’s gonna be huge for me.” … Hocevar, one of two rookies in the playoff field, endured through multiple incidents to come home eighth.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: A majority of the 10 playoff drivers – Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Austin Hill, Todd Gilliland, Hocevar, and John Hunter Nemechek – were involved in various problems, including crashes and mechanical issues … Hill, Gilliland and Hocevar were caught in a wreck at Lap 113 that came after John Hunter Nemechek momentarily lost power and caused a stack-up behind him … Then, on Lap 130, Nemechek – the title favorite – briefly went behind the wall for a reported broken left-front brake rotor. Nemechek returned to the race and finished 22nd.
NOTABLE: Shortly after the restart to begin Stage 2 at Lap 59, a power outage at the track sent the race into a red flag period. During that, WWT Raceway general manager Chris Blair tweeted that a fire in nearby Fairmont City, Illinois took out a transformer and led to a loss of power in the area. Power was eventually restored; the red flag lasted for 59 minutes, 8 seconds.
NEXT: Darlington Raceway (Playoff Round of 10, Race No. 2), Sunday, Sept. 5, 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1