Denny Hamlin pleased with Martinsville conditions after pacing first practice

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia — Five-time Martinsville Speedway winner Denny Hamlin paced the first practice Saturday at the 0.526-mile oval.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who is among the remaining playoff drivers as the Round of 8 begins at Martinsville, turned a 95.415-mph lap in the No. 11 Toyota. Kyle Larson, who was eliminated from the playoffs in Sunday’s Round of 12 cutoff race at Kansas Speedway, was second fastest at 95.299 mph.

Hamlin also approved of the conditions at the track, which is trying a revamped two-day schedule. Qualifying will be Sunday, a few hours before the 3 p.m. race.

Ryan Blaney (fourth at 95.036 mph) was the next-fastest playoff driver followed by Kyle Busch (fifth, 95.003) and Brad Keselowski (sixth, 94.989).

How the rest of the Round of 8 fared: Chase Elliott 17th, Martin Truex Jr. 21st, Jimmie Johnson 22nd and Kevin Harvick 23rd.

Busch had the fastest 10-lap average at 94.460 mph.

Furniture Row Racing rookie Erik Jones didn’t turn a lap because of a steering problem. He is expected to run in the final practice, which will begin at 4 p.m. after the truck race at Martinsville.

Click here for speeds from the first Cup practice at Martinsville Speedway.