FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Sheldon Creed got a little bump from a friend who was already in the final four for the NASCAR Truck Series.
Now Creed has a spot alongside teammate Brett Moffitt after winning in Texas on Sunday.
Creed qualified for the championship round by taking the two-lap overtime finish created when playoff contender Ben Rhodes clipped noncontending Christian Eckes with both in the top five with two laps to go, leaving several drivers angry.
With Creed running alongside Austin Hill on the backstretch on the first lap of the restart, Moffitt moved down the track to give Creed the nudge he needed to go in front.
“Thank God I had a teammate with me and was able to clear there,” said Creed, the first four-time winner in the series this season. “I figured I could cover the 16 at least a couple of laps. It's so nice being stress-free for the next week or two.”
Hill was about to overtake Creed with two laps to go when Rhodes turned into the right rear of Eckes' No. 18 Toyota, sending Eckes spinning into the wall.
Rhodes had damage to his left front but then got sent into the wall by Eckes' teammate, Chandler Smith, leaving Creed to take the combo yellow/checkered at the finish line. Rhodes ended up 20th.
Rhodes said he was trying to keep his car off the wall and didn't intend to make contact with Eckes, who flashed obscene gestures at Rhodes when he came around to the grassy area on the front stretch where Eckes' car ended up.
“They can have their own opinion, but I was in the truck, I know what happened,” Rhodes said. "Now everybody wants to fight us for incidents that I'm put into.
“It seems to be a lack of talent over there,” Rhodes said, referring to Cup driver Kyle Busch's Truck Series team.
Eckes said he thought the contact from Rhodes was intentional.
“Sure, I was being aggressive and trying to clear him, but in the same aspect, it’s just hard racing on a one-groove race track,” Eckes said. “Then he got a little upset and we got straight down the straightaway and I was separated and had a run. Was going to probably clear him and he just turned left as hard as he could and hooked me.”
Creed led 131 of the 152 laps, while Hill ended up second and Zane Smith third. Hill and Smith are the other two in the top four with Creed and Moffitt, with one qualifying race left Friday at Martinsville.
Matt Crafton, who briefly took the lead from Creed and won the second stage, finished sixth and is the first driver outside the cutline, 12 points behind Zane Smith.
Among the remaining drivers still with a chance to qualify, Grant Enfinger is 42 points behind Smith, followed by Rhodes (45 behind) and Tyler Ankrum (79 behind).
Creed briefly lost the lead with 20 laps to go to a couple of drivers outside the title chase when Stewart Friesen passed Creed, right before Johnny Sauter tried to get by Friesen on the bottom. They collided side-by-side in Turn 2 and drifted into the outside wall together.
“That made my life a little easier when they did that,” Creed said. “Let the race come to you , drive what you have and you’ll always end up better. A good day and executed well.”
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