The “Kentucky Kid” was hoping to be competitive at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, the first grand prix within driving distance of Hayden’s home in Owensboro, Kentucky. But a combination of a slow-healing heel and difficult conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway landed him in eighth. Not bad, but not what he wanted.
And, he feared, if the rain was as heavy as it was late in the afternoon session, it could jeopardize the race.
“I would think if it was raining as hard as it was at the end of the session, it’d be impossible to race about anywhere,” he said, a sentiment echoed by World Champion Casey Stoner.
Hayden’s struggles were in the early parts of the track, the recently paved section, which offers less grip.
“Well in T-1 and T-2, I mean, I’m embarrassingly slow,” he said after saying that his Honda RC212V was hydroplaning on much of the track, but not the old part, where he was more comfortable. “So would be nice to catch a little break here and dry out a little bit today. I mean, the weather was, I mean, same for everybody, but, man, that was some serious rain. And the way turn one and the infield is just all rose in off that banking and there’s just nowhere to go.”
The standing water also made it difficult to see, especially on the front straight. Hayden explained it by saying “you know what it’s like trying to see in your car with windshield wipers. Once you get behind the bubble sometimes it steams up also, so you can’t really see through the bubble. And when a bike throws up spray, I mean, yeah, it’s hard to see. Today over in turn four your knee was throwing up…there was so much water your knee was like throwing water up in your lap. I mean, I felt that before, but that’s kind of how you know; when the rain goes deep, when your knee goes through it and starts putting water in your lap, it’s time to get the snorkeler out.”
Some riders complained of tire problems, that they couldn’t find a tire that worked on the various tarmac surfaces. Hayden wasn’t among them.
“Yeah, it is difficult, but, no, my tire wear has been OK, so I don’t have any problem with the tire wear,” he said.
His difficult was with his right heel. Hayden is still on crutches with his right foot in a soft cast after breaking the heel at the X Games six weeks ago.
“It’s not really helping me by any means, but it’s certainly better in the rain than riding in the dry,” he said. “So it’s not a big, big problem. Yeah, it’s not helping me, but that’s not why I was eighth” in the morning “and 14th or something” in the afternoon.
His results and the weather didn’t dampen Hayden’s enthusiasm over racing so close to home.
“Yeah, it’s nice to be here,” he said. “Obviously, I wish I was having a bit more fun. Today was not ideal, also, for all the fans. That had to be pretty miserable. After about an hour of solid rain on you kind of takes the fun out of it. At least we have garages and stuff to get out of it. Yeah, I’m happy to be here, happy to be so close to home and just more than anything want to try to maybe gas it up tomorrow and get up. That’s where the fun’s at.”