How does it feel to win the Red Bull USGP for the second year in a row? "Better than last year, if that's possible," said Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden, and he should know. "Last year was perfect and it all came pretty easy, but this year I really had to work for it. We were chasing the right setting all weekend long."
By the time his Michelins kissed the 144-degree grid on Sunday afternoon, Nicky had wrestled the 240-plus horsepower RC211V through three practice sessions on a freshly repaved surface that was literally disintegrating in the crazy-hot California heat. A 1.23.536-second qualifying lap meant Hayden would start from the second row, behind third-quickest Kenny Roberts Jr. and the quicker-by-the-week Honda-powered KR211V. Nobody had ever won Laguna from the second row, but Nicky's face said this was going to be the first time.
Running third from the start, the Kentucky Kid ducked under Roberts in the Corkscrew on lap nine and took the lead from fading pole-sitter Chris Vermeulen on the Rizla Suzuki eight laps later. Putting 1.4 seconds between himself and the Aussie's Suzuki in the next eight laps, all Nicky had to do was ride smart, save his tires and keep the best riders in the world behind him for seven more trips around Laguna Seca-which is exactly what he did.