It was the greatest day for American roadracing in almost 20 years, since Eddie Lawson won the last “inaugural” U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca in 1988. On hiatus since 1994, the USGP circus returned to Northern California’s famed dry lake on July 10, 2005, to great fanfare. Michael Jordan attended. So did inflatable actress Pamela Anderson, and Brad Pitt—the latter arriving via private helicopter. But the real star of the show was 23-year-old Nicky Hayden, of Owensboro, Kentucky, then in his third year as a MotoGP racer. No one in the Laguna Seca paddock was more motivated to win than Hayden. He wanted nothing more than to earn his first MotoGP victory on home soil, in front of so many friends and family—not to mention an estimated 57,000-plus race fans.