McMurray a cool pick
The frantic style of racing on restrictor-plate tracks is limited to a total of four races each season. Daytona International Speedway holds both the season opener and the Independence Day weekend race every year.
Talladega Superspeedway, the site of this week's event, hosts a spring race and the final plate competition during the Chase. The racing has similarities across both tracks, but the action at 'Dega is more aggressive and prone to wrecks.
Practice sessions: Friday, May 2 at 1 p.m. EDT, 2:30 p.m. EDT
Qualifying: Saturday, May 3 at 12:10 p.m. EDT
Race: Sunday, May 4 at 12 p.m. EDT
Location: Talladega, Ala.
Length: 2.66 miles
Turns: 33 degrees
Frontstretch: 16.5 degrees
Backstretch: 2 degrees
Jamie McMurray | No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet | Chip Ganassi Racing
While he may not be a true sleeper as a two-time winner at Talladega -- most recently last fall -- McMurray is sure to be overlooked this week. He owns just a pair of top-10 finishes this season while placing 17th, 16th and 13th in his last three outings, holding a better average running position than his actual finish in each of those races. McMurray's streak of underperforming should end this week on a restrictor-plate track, where a total of four of his of seven career wins have come.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. | No. 17 Zest Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
In last year's rookie season, Stenhouse was rather impressive in plate races. In addition to finishing 13th and third at Talladega, he placed 12th and 11th at Daytona. To open this season, Stenhouse rallied from starting 34th to score a seventh-place result in the Daytona 500. Stenhouse has failed to finish inside the top 20 over the last five races but has consistently been a factor in these types of races.
David Gilliland | No. 38 Love's Travel Stop Ford | Front Row Motorsports
Over the last three years only one driver, Clint Bowyer, has scored more points at Talladega than Gilliland. During that span, he's recorded an average finish of 11.3 with one top-five, three top-10s and five top-15s in six starts. Poor starting position is not a problem for Gilliland (coming off a respectable 20th last week at Richmond), as he's qualified no better than 24th since 2007.
David Ragan | No. 34 KFC Go Cup Ford | Front Row Motorsports
Ragan, a teammate of Gilliland, also has a knack for finishing near the front at Talladega. In fact, he won this race last year with just four laps led. Ragan comes in with four straight top-10 finishes at 'Dega, the longest active streak in the series. Like Gilliland, Ragan hasn't been able to translate that level of success to Daytona while driving for FRW. Don't let those recent lackluster results from DIS steer you away.
Martin Truex Jr. | No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet | Furniture Row Racing
Last year, his final season with Michael Waltrip Racing, saw Truex qualify on the outside pole and finish seventh in the spring race at Talladega. In the fall, he started fourth and placed eighth as one of just three drivers to record a top-10 in each trip to 'Dega. Truex started second in this year's Daytona 500 but blew an engine after just 30 laps. Truex is coming off his first top-10 of the season, but it's been an otherwise bumpy ride early on with Furniture Row Racing.
Michael Waltrip | No. 66 Blue/DEF Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Waltrip is a popular sleeper pick when he dusts off his fire suit for Daytona and Talladega, but has been very hit-or-miss. At 'Dega in 2013, he finished fourth in the spring and 32nd in the fall. Last year, Waltrip placed 22nd in the Daytona 500 and fifth in the summer. He was caught up in a wreck in this year's 500 after suffering another crash in the qualifying race.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.
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