Race Car Driver Sheldon Creed Reveals Lessons He Learned Working Construction
Discipline, safety and teamwork are crucial in both worlds.
What do flagging for construction sites and driving race cars have in common? More than you might think.
Since childhood, Sheldon Creed has known two worlds: construction and racing. As a kid, when he wasn’t visiting his grandfather’s construction business, he was racing BMX bikes starting at age 3 and racing four-wheelers nearly a decade before he was old enough to get a driver’s license.
Last year Creed, now 20, spent six months flagging for his grandfather’s company, A.M. Ortega, an underground construction utility provider in Southern California. This year the flags he works with are of the checkered variety. Creed was recently ranked No. 15 on ESPN’s list of top 20 NASCAR prospects to watch. His nickname: The Showstopper. In 2018 he is competing for the ARCA Racing Series championship, a proven springboard to NASCAR stardom. He already has conquered short-course off-road racing and the Stadium Super Trucks Series.
Project Uptime spoke with Creed, whom United Rentals recently began sponsoring, to find out what drives success in both construction and racing.
Whether on a jobsite or the race track, “You need to do things right and put in the work,” said Creed.
He learned that discipline is often about managing your temperament. “It’s a head game — patience is a big part of discipline,” said Creed. “You can’t be a hothead on a jobsite, and you have to be a smart race car driver.”
Safety is another vital factor in both of Creed’s worlds. Working on a construction site, as with driving a race car, means keeping track of the people and equipment moving around you, Creed said. As a flagger, he learned the importance of constantly monitoring what’s happening in your vicinity and knowing when to get out.
“If you make a mistake, things can go bad in a hurry, in both situations,” said Creed, who said he’s only sustained one major racing injury, a broken arm when he was 12.
Whether it’s a hard hat and steel-toed boots or a racing helmet and roll bars, Creed knows the importance of having the proper safety equipment. He said construction and racing both have superintendents or safety guides who monitor everyone to make sure they adhere to the proper safety requirements.
“Many people don’t think they need them,” said Creed, referring to some of the PPE worn on construction sites. “But at the end of the day, you want them.”
Creed said the most valuable lesson he learned working construction was how to listen, whether someone is sharing expertise or giving suggestions.
In both worlds, there’s a group of people working together to get a job done. For instance, just as there’s a superintendent and various tradesmen on a job, there’s a racing crew that includes a tire expert, a mechanic and a crew chief who calls the shots. Even though he’s the man behind the wheel, Creed says he values the crew’s input, just as he saw his construction coworkers at A.M. Ortega value the input of others.
“The whole aspect of a job is working together and listening to people,” Creed said. In the case of racing, he added, “The people you’re working with make you race better.”
Emily Canal is a staff writer at Inc. Magazine and has reported pieces for The New York Times, Boston Globe and Forbes.