Denny Hamlin holds himself to a high standard – and finishing in fourth place just doesn’t cut it.
When asked about his performance in Saturday’s Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Hamlin was clearly less than thrilled at his top-five finish in his fill-in role for injured teammate Kyle Busch.
“Mediocre at best,” Hamlin said. “Proud of this whole Monster Energy team, but that’s about what we had for a car. We didn’t have any short run speed and that kills you on these restarts.
“We had a big hole in the nose that in hindsight we probably should have fixed, but other than that it was kind of a status quo day. It’s kind of what we had. Didn’t tear anything up and we’ll build on it and try to run better next time.”
Hamlin was in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy Toyota Camry in place of Busch, who suffered a broken right leg and broken left foot in a wreck in the Xfinity Series season opener two weeks ago at Daytona.
In just his third Xfinity start in as many seasons, Hamlin might have been able to mount a late charge, but his car’s handling went away in the closing laps of the 200-lap event at the 1.5-mile racetrack.
“It just got tight at the end of the day, but still proud of this team,” Hamlin said. “Just didn’t have the car or the speed to run with the 33 (race winner Austin Dillon).”
Brad Keselowski will be at the front of the field to start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 pm ET, USA Network).
Keselowski, who is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group, won the pole Saturday afternoon with a speed of 188.990, edging Joey Logano‘s 188.805.
The race is the first of three in the second round of the Cup playoffs. Round of 12 races will follow at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Oct. 9.
Also starting in the top five Sunday will be William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell.
Brad Keselowski, hoping to extend Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s turnaround, won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was the second piece of good news for RFK Racing in two weeks. Chris Buescher, Keselowski’s teammate, won last week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first victory for the team under the RFK banner.
Keselowski, who ran 188.990 mph, is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group. Nine of the first 14 starting positions were filled by playoff drivers.
Following in the top five Saturday were Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. Playoff point leader Chase Elliott will start sixth.
“Texas is a really tough track,” Keselowski told NBC Sports. “As hot as it’s going to be, that will be even tougher.”
Race-time temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s Sunday.
The race (3:30 p.m. ET), the first event in the second round of the playoffs, will be televised by the USA Network.
The first race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
Twelve drivers are racing for eight spots in the next round. Chase Elliott leads the standings by 15 over Joey Logano entering Sunday’s 500-mile event, the only Cup points race at TMS this year. Ryan Blaney, who is in the playoff group, won the All-Star Race at the track in May.
Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline entering the 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race.
The playoffs will continue at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9).
Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway:
START: The command to start engines will be given by “Top Gun: Maverick” actors Jay Ellis and Lewis Pullman at 3:38 p.m. (ET) … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.
PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … The 1st Cavalry Division Band will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.
DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.
STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 105. Stage 2 ends at Lap 210.
TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.
FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy skies. High of 96 with a 5% chance of rain.
LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won by .459 of a second over William Byron last October. Larson led 256 of the race’s 334 laps.
CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS COVERAGE
Friday 5: Waffle House a headquarters for winning drivers
Brandon Jones wins Texas Xfinity pole
Dr. Diandra on the art and science of the pass
Red Farmer: A racer and a winner at almost 90 years old
NBC Sports Power Rankings entering Texas race
Playoff driver Brandon Jones won the pole position Saturday morning for Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Jones was clocked at 185.637 miles per hour. He has won three of the past four Xfinity poles.
Scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on the USA Network, the race is the opening event of the Xfinity playoffs.
Following Jones in the top five were Noah Gragson (winner of three consecutive Xfinity races), Daniel Hemric, John Hunter Nemechek and Sam Mayer.
The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile track. Drivers will be battling heat in the mid-to-high 90s.