DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP)Sheldon Creed led the final 80 laps to take his second straight NASCAR Truck Series win in the playoffs and second in a row at Darlington Raceway on Sunday.
Creed, the defending series champ, opened the 10-driver playoffs with a victory outside of St. Louis on Aug. 20. He kept up the front-running show at the track ”Too Tough To Tame.”
He moved in front on the 68th lap and stayed there the rest of the way. John Hunter Nemechek clawed to about a half-second back of Creed on the final lap, but could not gain any more ground.
”What a way to open the playoffs,” Creed said.
Creed won on this tricky, egg-shaped layout in May by moving in front at a late restart. This time, Creed was in control.
Nemechek finished second and qualified for the playoffs’ second round of eight drivers. There’s one more opening-round race at Bristol on Sept. 16.
It was the second straight season that Darlington hosted a Truck Series playoff race when a scheduled event at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, Canada, could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Creed might not want to run anywhere else, He joined Bobby Hamilton with three wins and Kasey Kahne with two as multiple truck winners at Darlington.
The top four finishers were playoff participants; Stewart Friensen was third, and Todd Gilliland fourth.
Parker Kligerman was fifth, the first non-playoff finisher. Grant Enfinger was sixth.
The remainder of the playoff finishers where Chandler Smith in seventh, Zane Smith in ninth, Matt Crafton in 10th, Carson Hocevar in 11th, Austin Hill in 12th and Ben Rhodes was 34th.
Rhodes, who outraced Creed to win at Darlington on Labor Day weekend 2020, was involved in a wreck on lap 66 and finished seven laps behind the leaders.
Creed earned his third Truck Series win this season and No. 8 for his career. After winning the second stage, Creed was never seriously challenged in the final stretch despite having a pair of restarts due to cautions.
”I’m just trying to enjoy” this latest playoff run, Creed said. ”Last year, I was super serious about it and I had fun, but I just want to remember it more this year.”
Nemecheck won the first stage, but never found a way to move in front of Creed.
”It is what it is,” Nemechek said. ”At least we clinched our way into the next round, which is really all that matters now. But we want to win every single week and not being the top dog really hurts.”
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