And we're on a mission.
What's the mission? Deliver this sticker to The Kentucky Kid -- Ducati rider Nicky Hayden, a true Kick Ass Kentuckian. This sticker and other similarly awesome items are made by the folks at Kentucky for Kentucky who are waging a campaign to replace the Commonwealth's lame slogan with one that doesn't suck. And the sticker was made for folks like the Haydens who have represented Kentucky on the national and international stage for nearly two decades, and done so better than anybody else since 1792. [For more on that, read this.]
I brought extras just in case we see any other members of Earls Racing Team, including Earl, but the main mission is to get this sticker on the #69 Ducati. OK, fine, that's not gonna happen. I'm sure it can be used somewhere, though. Nicky was kind enough to sign some paintings I ordered for my office after his 2006 World Championship, so I owe him one...
|2006 MotoGP Champion (artwork by Jason Watt).|
Hayden stole the title from Valentino Rossi in the last race of the season.
That totally kicked...well, you know.
It kicked ass!
We got to The Speedway in time to watch the MotoGP qualifying session on Saturday and fortunately our friend was able to hook us up with paddock passes again. So cool... so cool...
|These things make me happy.|
This is my happy place.
Unfortunately, this weekend was going even worse for American Ben Spies than last year's Indy GP, which was a disaster. Last year his bike blew up in spectacular fashion while he was racing hard at the front; this year he crashed hard in practice and broke shoulder parts. I was looking forward to watching him on the Ducati, but no qualifying and no race for Ben this year. To say 2012 was a bad year for Spies would be an understatement, but 2013 has been even worse. Get well soon, Ben!
Last year a Saturday crash similarly eliminated Hayden from the race, but no such problems this year.
|When you go a whole year between races, you forget just how fast these bikes are.|
They're fast. At Indy they are about 210 MPH fast, and they'll be faster next year.
|Paddock passes were sold to the public this year, and the paddock did seem more crowded.|
There's future AMA DMG Superbike Champ Josh Herrin.
I love roaming the paddock and meeting Facebook friends in real life. For example, pictured above is Andrew Wheeler of automotophoto.com fame. Not pictured, it was nice to finally meet Dan Lo of CornerSpeedPhoto. We also ran into some other familiar folks who occasionally made their way out of the Pagoda, but I never did see EW. Someday, I'll see EW again... someday.
|There's a lot happening in this picture.|
That's all I'm gonna say about that.
|We ran into a Kick Ass Kentuckian pal in the pits who got his Hayden helmet signed by Hayden after QP.|
|Who's Bryan? |
Hello, Red Bull...
|Rossi still rides around with Uccio in tow, but he's back in Yamaha Blue this year.|
|Cal's pillion rider is a lot more attractive.|
|Dovi rides solo.|
|The fastest man in the land, er, the world, hitches a ride.|
|Would you believe there is a diminutive Spaniard with a broken shoulder in the middle of that mess?|
|Told ya so!|
I can't believe they let him walk around solo.
He had to remove at least one eager fan's hand from the injured shoulder.
|There's a lot going on in this picture, too.|
For example, something called a Tyson Beckford.
Don't know who he is, but he's always here and he's always wearing a backpack.
They put him on TV more than they put me on TV. Not sure why.
|Ducati and Yamaha don't often work on projects together, but when they do...|
Last year we checked out the Indy Mile action, so this year we went downtown to see the Motorcycles on Meridian scene. Quite the scene! Tons of people were downtown, especially after dark. Gen Con was taking place on the same weekend, but those folks didn't mingle too much with the motorcycle crowd. The highlight of the evening was an expected announcement from IMS that MotoGP would return in 2014. Woot.
|This burger recipe won me a $150 gift card for Weber Grill Restaurant last year.|
There's no Weber Grill Restaurant in Kentucky (they should fix that), but there is one in downtown Indy.
Time to eat!
|Dinner with some industry friends.|
The Weber Grill Restaurant is awesome, if you like grilled food. There are only a few locations, so if you ever find youself near one, give it a shot. Four of us got better food than we can cook and more food than we could eat for $153. Three dollars over the target... not bad!
Leftover Weber Grill food & hotel fruit.
On Sunday we walked into the track with a high-ranking DMG official who praised Michael Jordan's team's Superbike performance this year, specifically praising Roger Lee Hayden. I'm guessing he didn't know then that Jordan would ditch the AMA's untelevised final race of the year and race World Superbike instead? Bravo, Jordan. Bravo...
|The Racing Capital of the World.|
Our race seats are up on top of that roof.
If you're scared of heights, it's not a fun trip.
|Back in the paddock, we tried to go all paparazzi on a journalist type, but he was too quick with the block.|
[Image by Juice.]
|Factory Ducati Garage.|
[Image by DFA.]
Coolest thing ever! We got to visit the Ducati garage a couple hours before the race. We had no business being in there at that moment, because it wasn't exactly downtime. Nick was on one side of the garage working with his engineer, and Dovi was on the other side working by himself with a laptop. The mechanics were working on the bikes; in fact, three of them were naked (the bikes, not the mechanics). I couldn't believe they let us slip in there for a picture. Who gets to see a naked MotoGP bike on raceday? Thanks, Mr. Ciabatti!
|When Nick finished up with his pre-race meeting, we finally caught up with him.|
[Image by Juice.]
Nice little chat, too. The Haydens love talking football.
Time to watch some racing...
|Catwalk to the Penthouse.|
|T1 - T4.|
This section will look different next year.
Before the race starts, I should probably mention that I called Marquez to win this race a year ago. He owned this track in Moto2 and there's no reason to think he can't dominate the MotoGP race on a factory Repsol...
|2013 Red Bull Indy GP MotoGP race start.|
This was the first time in years that Pedrosa didn't lead into Turn One.
|The Attack bike made it through two corners, but not three.|
Ben Spies has had a rough season, but Blake Young's has been worse.
|The next few laps all looked just about the same.|
Lorenzo is doing all he can do -- get out front and stay there as long as possible.
|Same ol', same ol'...|
|The Doctor fell all the way back into Ducati territory before mounting a most impressive charge toward the front.|
|Before long, Marquez made his way around Pedrosa...|
|...and inevitably got by Lorenzo.|
|For most of the race, the Ducatis rode around in front of Smith's Yamaha, led by Hayden...|
|...but then the teammates started swapping places in T2.|
|The T2 passes didn't normally stick, and Smith just enjoyed the view while waiting for something to happen.|
|Pedrosa eventually relegated Jorge to third.|
It was an all-Spanish podium, of course.
|Dovi made the T2 pass stick on the last lap.|
|Marquez liked to win the Moto2 races by at least a whole straightaway, but Dani kept him in sight on this day.|
For whatever that's worth.
Some may have predicted Marquez would win this race, but nobody predicted he'd have the season he's having. He's swept all three American races, so I guess that means the King of America is a 19-year-old Spanish kid? Impressive. He's not just winning races; he's changing the sport. He's fun to watch and I hope he has a long healthy career.
Hayden finished the weekend by making a kick ass move in the last corner to beat his teammate. It wasn't pretty and it allowed Smith get by both red bikes, but who cares? You have to beat your teammate at your home home track and Hayden did. Awesome!
Dovi didn't think it was awesome.
|I hate this part...|
|...and this part.|
|The Ducati garage was a popular place after the race as Hayden was interviewed about that last corner.|
|Ciao, Gasoline Alley.|
See you next year.
|We followed this beauty out of the track.|
|We also gave Nicky's older brother (and manager), Tommy, a sticker and both are visible in this pic from Nick's phone.|
We didn't see Rog or Earl, but next time I do I've got a sticker for them, too...
Keep up the good work, Haydens!
Things will be different next year. Nicky will be riding a different bike (probably a faster one). The track itself will be faster and offer better spectator views with a revised course layout. Perhaps Roger Lee can score a wildcard ride? That would be cool. With the Laguna Seca race being cancelled, perhaps the crowd will grow again? That turn of events is probably more likely to help COTA. Media reports said the 2013 crowd was smaller than 2012, but those numbers are estimates and it looked about the same to me. Here's to hoping we can keep MotoGP in the Midwest for many years to come... Cheers.