Sheldon Creed Rules Las Vegas Dirt

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Sheldon Creed celebrates victory at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas. (NASCAR photo)

LAS VEGAS — It isn’t over until the checkered flag waves.

Sheldon Creed proved that on Thursday evening at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, as he won the Star Nursery 100 to earn the first NASCAR K&N Pro Series victory of his young career.

He inherited the top spot when dirt track ace and NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Christopher Bell was black flagged for a restart violation with five laps to go while leading. Bell had driven through the field after suffering early contact and was cruising when a late caution gave Creed the opportunity to grab the win.

Creed was able to hold off a hard-charging Hailie Deegan in overtime to earn the victory in the No. 40 United Rentals Chevrolet for Levin Racing.

“It’s pretty cool,” Creed said of his first win in the series. “We got close once or twice last year. Led Dover until like 20 to go and blew a tire. I thought we gave a couple away last year, so it’s really cool to come here this year and finish it off.”

Creed’s previous best K&N Pro finish came last season at California’s Orange Show Speedway (second) and had three top fives and four top 10s coming into the 100-lap dirt event. He leads the championship standings in the ARCA Racing Series driving for MDM Motorsports, and was able to bring his crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz to Last Vegas with the Levin Racing team, a smaller organization that doesn’t see Victory Lane that often.

“This whole deal was last minute,” Creed said. “I was going (run this race) with Jefferson Pitts Racing earlier in the year when we talked about it and then things changed. Levin Racing was kind of the only car open and JPR mentioned it to us. Pretty cool to put this together two weeks ago, they did everything we wanted. Just super thankful for them.”

Hailie Deegan became the first female to win a pole in the history of the K&N Pro Series, East or West, earlier in the day. She won her heat and led 13 laps but came up one spot short for the second time this season.

“It was a struggle,” Deegan said of the 100-lap event. “I knew it was going to be a struggle from the get-go, but that was difficult. I just kept overdriving it from the initial start. I dropped back, jammed the shifter from third to fourth … and I think we chipped some teeth off the gears or something because it kept popping out of fourth every other lap or so. We had to battle that all night.”

The 17-year-old Temecula, Calif. native and NASCAR Next driver had a shifter issue midway through the race which forced her to fall back outside the top 10. But once her Bill McAnally Racing team resolved the issue under the halfway break, the No. 19 Mobil 1/NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota came back to life.

“In the end we fought back,” she said. “I think with another lap or two, we definitely could have had him. … I knew I was in the best position to strike. I expected Sheldon to overdrive the first corner a little more, but he’s good driver, he’s done this before, he’s raced ARCA on dirt. He knows to protect that last corner. He knew what do to and drove a smart race.”

Derek Thorn overcame a spin early on to finish third and extend his championship points lead to 31 over Sunrise Ford teammate Ryan Partridge. Cole Keatts overcame a crash in the early going to finish fourth and NASCAR national series veteran and former West champion Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top five.

The finish:

Sheldon Creed, Hailie Deegan, Derek Thorn, Cole Keatts, Brendan Gaughan, Cole Rouse, Trevor Huddleston, Ryan Partridge, Matt Levin, Christopher Bell, Austin Reed, Vanessa Robinson, Bill Kann, Tim Ward, David Hibbard, Takuma Koga, Derek Kraus, Todd Souza, Tim Spurgeon, Kody Vanderwal, Michael Kofoid, Rich DeLong III, Buddy Shepherd, Hollis Thackeray.