Commentary

My wish? A win for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Updated: January 5, 2011, 2:32 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Christmas was great this year, but I still didn't get everything I wanted. No, I don't want another tie that looks like the Belgium national flag.

You can't have everything you want. But I want some things for the 2011 racing season to keep me from getting grumpy in my old age, or grumpier than I am already.

I get bored easily these days, especially during the 40 extra laps at Pocono that put me in a trance.

[+] EnlargeDale Earnhardt Jr.
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesIt's been a lengthy dry spell for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who last won a Cup race in June 2008 at Michigan.

And my impatience is escalating. When you are ahead of me in line at the grocery store, don't tell your life story to the checkout clerk while I'm waiting to buy a carton of eggs. Move on down the road, Grandpa, before one of these cage-free eggs becomes your new hat.

Here are 10 things that would keep me sane and make me a happy guy while covering races in 2011:

1. Some new names near the top in Sprint Cup -- I want to see some young drivers step up to the next level and become contenders.

Joey Logano is the first name that comes to mind. He won't turn 21 until May, but I think he's ready to run with the leaders.

I want to see AJ Allmendinger contend for the Chase under the reorganized operation for Richard Petty, along with the Tasmanian Flash, Marcos Ambrose.

And I can't think of a more heartwarming story than seeing Brian Vickers return from his health problems and win races for the Red Bull team.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning again -- This has nothing to do with being a Dale Jr. fan or not being a fan. It's about what's best for the sport.

Earnhardt contending with the big boys and winning races is good for NASCAR, just as Tiger Woods winning tournaments is good for golf. Love 'em or hate 'em, that's a fact.

More people care, more people watch and more people get excited about NASCAR when Earnhardt is winning. Well, that used to be true. It's been so long ago now that I barely can remember.

Earnhardt running up front consistently also would bring some redemption for new crew chief Steve Letarte, who often was criticized by Jeff Gordon fans during his tenure as the crew chief of the No. 24 Chevy. Letarte would transform himself to Vince Lombardi if he made Junior a winner again.

3. Someone else winning the Sprint Cup title -- Jimmie Johnson will be remembered not only as the greatest race car driver of his generation but also one of the best athletes of his era. He's also one of the most underappreciated sports stars in history. Regardless of the points system used, winning five consecutive Cup titles ranks among the most impressive achievements in sports today.

Johnson has been everything you could want in a champion -- respectful, cordial, charitable, etc. -- a class act in every way.

But, frankly, it has gotten stale. A new champion is needed to spark things up a bit. It's the ABJ season -- Anybody But Jimmie.

You want me to pick one guy? Fine. I want to see Jeff Gordon win a fifth championship 10 years after his fourth one.

[+] EnlargeDanica Patrick
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesDanica Patrick could cement her legacy with a victory in the 2011 Indianapolis 500.

4. Juan Pablo Montoya winning on an oval -- It's a shame this hasn't happened because some people still look at Montoya as a great road racer and a so-so NASCAR driver everywhere else. It just ain't true.

Montoya has been great for NASCAR, a colorful guy who brought in new fans and made a successful transition from open wheel. He deserves some success on the circle tracks.

5. A true Nationwide Series champion -- This will happen in some fashion. The rules likely will change to keep a full-time Cup driver from winning the Nationwide title.

But it could be a driver who was a full-time Cup competitor in the past -- such as Elliott Sadler or Sam Hornish Jr. I'm OK with that. It sure beats the alternative, but I'd really like to see a Nationwide champ who never has been a full-time Cup competitor.

Up-and-comers trying to earn a spot in Cup (Justin Allgaier, Trevor Bayne, Steve Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., to name a few) are the candidates who should win this title.

6. Danica Patrick coming close to winning a Nationwide race -- She doesn't even have to win it, just show she's capable of running up front.

If Patrick goes to Daytona and finishes third in the Nationwide race, people will believe she's more than a sideshow.

If she finishes 25th or worse in her first three Nationwide starts of 2011, all the hype on the planet won't save her. No one will care.

7. Danica winning the Indy 500 -- Hey, since I'm wishing, why not? If there's any place in America where she can win, Indy is it. For whatever reasons, Patrick is at her best on the big rectangle.

If she wins it, she'll immediately become queen of the world. Accomplishing anything else the rest of her life would be a bonus. And sponsorship money would fall from the sky like raindrops on a winter day in Seattle.

And as a writer, I could milk this for months.

8. Michael Schumacher racing up front in Formula One or quitting -- One of the saddest things in sports is watching a superstar hang around too long and tarnish his legend.

Schumi's return last year at age 41 was painful to endure at times. He didn't win a race, didn't have a pole and didn't have a podium finish.

Maybe he can turn it around this year with better equipment. If not, walk away and allow us to remember you as a winner.

9. A quality Top Fuel ride for Cory McClenathan -- He was in the hunt for the NHRA Top Fuel title all season but got pushed out of his ride at Don Schumacher Racing. At 48, he's still one of the best in the business and deserves a few more chances to win that elusive title.

10. I never have to hear the name Jeremy Mayfield again after today -- OK, I know it isn't possible, but I would rather go on a polar bear swim nude in Alaska than listen to one more sordid tale in this endless saga of woe.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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