For Sheldon Creed, racing and winning has been a part of life from a very early age.
Creed, driver of the MDM Motorsports No. 28 United Rentals Toyota, clinched the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship when he took to the track for practice at the season finale at Kansas Speedway. Like many others who came before him, he started his racing career on two wheels. He started racing BMX when he was three, and he started winning championships when he was just eight. He's thrown in an X-Games gold medal along the way, too.
After dominating in BMX by the time he was six years old, and winning championships, he was ready for the next challenge. At eight, he had transitioned to four wheels, and to no one's surprise, was still winning races and championships.
Creed found inspiration by a driver who was from the same part of southern California, a driver who just happened to have had a family connection.
"I was a big Jimmie Johnson fan," Creed said. "Jimmie was from the same area I was, and my grandfather and his dad were really good friends. When Jimmie was winning the five championships in a row, I was a teenager and just thought it was super cool someone we talked about, who was a name in our house, was winning all those races and championships."
By the time he was 15, he was already an established star in the Speed Energy Formula Off-Road series, formerly known as the Robby Gordon Stadium Super Trucks. That year, he became the youngest ever winner in that form of racing, and the next season he finished second in the series championship with three wins and nine podium finishes. The following year, in 2015, he became the series' youngest ever champion with nine wins. He also won the gold medal at the X Games in Austin, Texas.
Creed spent a lot of time around former Cup Series driver Robby Gordon, the owner and promoter of the Formula Off-Road series.
"Robby is a great teacher. He teaches you all of the things you shouldn't do," Creed said with a big laugh. "It was a great few years racing with him and I did learn a lot. Being so competitive with him raised my expectations for the next step."
In 2016, Creed started to transition into full-fendered stock car competition. He competed in a diverse schedule of pro late model, ARCA, Trans Am, NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck, and NASCAR XFINITY Series events.
The transition to stock car racing wasn't always smooth. Creed, who first tested an ARCA car at Kansas Speedway the day of his 18th birthday, struggled to find the balance on asphalt.
"On dirt, it's just you and the car," he said. "If the car isn't right, it's up to you to adjust to it. In stock cars, the car can be changed so it's up to the driver to learn what the car is doing and learn how to communicate that to the crew chief. I've learned a lot about that the past two years running in ARCA and I will keep learning that for years to come."
The success in the early part of his career raised his expectations for success in stock cars.
"I really thought coming into ARCA I would have the same kind of success I had elsewhere," Creed said. "I expected it. And when I didn't get it right away, it make me dislike stock cars a little bit. It's a lot harder than most people think it is."
In 2017, he joined MDM Motorsports for a limited ARCA and NKNSPE schedule. He finished a season-best third at both Iowa and Kentucky before reloading for a full run in 2018.
His 2018 season has been consistently solid. He picked up his first career ARCA win at Michigan in June, and then followed it in short order with wins at Gateway and Iowa. By mid-summer he had established himself as the driver to beat for the championship, and he entered the final event of the season needing just to make a lap in practice to clinch the series championship.
"I am not going to get emotional about it or anything like that," Creed said. "Right now, it's just the next goal that I need to accomplish. But I am sure that five or ten years down the road, I will look back on it and see my name listed with the other drivers who have won the ARCA championship and think to myself "that was pretty cool"."
Creed, like many ARCA champions before him, aspires to make the jump into NASCAR competition on a full-time basis in the near future. He will run the final four NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races of 2018 for GMS Racing, the team that won the 2015 ARCA Racing Series championship with driver Grant Enfinger. Coincidentally, Creed's 2018 championship run was with crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz, who was also at the helm of Enfinger's 2015 title run.
But becoming a successful stock car driver isn't without its compromises. Creed has been forced to give up one of his biggest passions.
"I started racing on dirt bikes, but I haven't been on one in two years," he said. "I had to give it up because no one wants me to get hurt doing it. Growing up, all of my heroes rode dirt bikes. Guys like (Travis) Pastrana and (Jeremy) McGrath. They were gnarly. As soon as they tell me I can ride again, I am going to."
-ARCA Racing Series Press Release & Photo