Over the course of the year, the press relations people at two of the venues hosting international motorcycle racing in the US - Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Miller Motorsports Park - have hosted some fascinating teleconferences with the stars of the MotoGP and World Superbike series. Yesterday, it was the turn of Indy, and in the capable hands of IMS' communications manager Paul Kelly, the press got a chance to talk to the youngest two of the Hayden brothers, Nicky and Roger Lee. Obviously, much of the talk was about their recent experiences at the Red Bull US GP at Laguna Seca, but Nicky and Roger also got a chance to talk about a few other subjects as well: Rog talked about his upcoming Moto2 ride at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on August 28th, while Nicky talked about the strength of racing in Owensboro, Kentucky, and how important Indy is as a home race. Here's the transcript:
MODERATOR: Welcome everyone to this teleconference for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Our guests are two of the prominent members of the first family of American motorcycle racing, the Haydens of Owensboro, Ky. Nicky and Roger Lee Hayden. A little bit of background on both.
Nicky Hayden is in his second season with the Ducati Team and his eighth season overall in MotoGP. He's sixth in the 2010 season standings after finishing fifth in a great battle last Sunday in the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca. Nicky has finished on the podium at each of the first two years of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he'll look to continue that streak at this year's event, which is Aug. 27-29 at IMS.
Roger Lee Hayden is riding full time this year with Team Pedercini aboard a Kawasaki in World Superbike. He also rode for the LCR Honda team last weekend at Laguna Seca in MotoGP, and he also will ride a Moriwaki MD600 as an American Honda wild-card entry in the Moto2 class at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP Aug. 27-29 at IMS. And American motorcycle racing legend Kevin Schwantz, who won the 1993 500cc World Championship, is managing that team that Rog will ride for.
Nicky and Rog, thanks a lot for joining us today.
Nicky, I'll start with you. What is it about Indianapolis, about the circuit there, the vibe, the crowd. What is it that suits you? You've rode so well there, being on the podium the first two years of the race. Is there anything that sticks out, that really works for you there?
NICKY HAYDEN: Not necessarily one thing. I do think racing inside the oval, somewhat, I feel pretty comfortable. Growing up in America, we raced at a lot of tracks with that same style setup. Daytona, Vegas, Colorado, Loudon. There was a lot of tracks where we raced inside the oval. Indianapolis, you don't really feel it as much because we don't use the banking too much. But I like that. Also, the track is very technical. There's three or four different types of almost sections. You have some new pavement, old pavement. It's not an easy track for the riders or for the teams for the setup because you have to try to get the bike to work on the bumps in those parts. And also with some fast corners, slow corners. So quite tricky. More than anything, I just like the atmosphere, the crowd. My home crowd is always worth something.
MODERATOR: Rog, how tough has it been for you … you've been on quite a variety of machines this year. Heck, in the last two or three weeks you've tested a 600cc Moto2 bike, you've ridden a 1000cc World Superbike and you raced an 800cc MotoGP bike. How tough has it been to adjust to all three of those bikes, because we're not just talking engine displacement, but different levels of electronics and things like that?
ROGER LEE HAYDEN: It's been pretty tough, but for the Moto2 bike, I had two full days to get used to it. And I had a lot of time riding a 600, spent a lot of years on one. That adjustment wasn't quite as much. The GP bike was quite, was quite different than a Superbike or a 600. That one took a little bit longer to get used to. But I just try to think about it the night before, the days leading up to it about what bike I'm going to ride and come in prepared for it.
JIM RACE: Roger, this is for you. Is there any testing you're going to be able to get done, and are you going to Brno?
R. HAYDEN: I'm not sure yet about Brno just because the team is planning on having Randy back, and that's their goal. For right now, Randy believes he's going to be back for that race. So now it's just kind of setting back and waiting.
PHILLIP WILSON: This is going to sound like an obvious question, but I'm dying to hear your answer. Being on the podium at Indianapolis, you've been there and done that. I'm taking it that this year you want to be the guy on the top spot, and nothing else matters.
N. HAYDEN: Well, that top spot is always a lot nicer than the two spots beside them. I've had four fourth places this year, and the difference between podium and winning is huge. We know the level in MotoGP is really high. Lorenzo and Dani, who has been winning the last couple, are strong. So I know to think about a win, man, that's out there. But that's always the goal. I have the team to do it, the bike. All the pieces are there. So, Brno is the race leading up to it, with a test on the Monday. Obviously, we've got big goals, and I believe in myself. So we'll go for it, for sure.
WILSON: For years, guys were asked about Valentino Rossi, and now the questions are about Lorenzo. What does it take to beat a guy like Lorenzo? What are you looking at when you try and take him down?
N. HAYDEN: The thing he's proven this year is that he's really solid. Last year he had the speed, but we'd see a few mistakes here or there at the track. This year, he's qualified first or second or finished first or second in every race this year. So he's really showed no weaknesses. So to really answer your question, at the moment, he's not showing any weaknesses. So we'll keep monitoring the situation, I guess, and see what develops. But now, nothing.
DAVID SWARTS: Nicky, are you sick? You're starting to sound like Earl there.
N. HAYDEN: Yeah, actually I don't feel bad. But I've lost my voice. I think five races in six weeks in five different countries, and follow up with a race at home, with a lot going on, just I lost my voice. But actually I feel fine. No, no drama there.
SWARTS: I didn't get a chance to talk to you Sunday night, but I was hoping you'd recap the race a little bit. I know you got a bad start, but it looks like you had a battle all the way through to the end.
N. HAYDEN: The actual race wasn't too bad. It was about as much as we could have hoped for all weekend. I wasn't happy with how the weekend had actually went. I was seventh, eighth in most all the sessions, during the sessions, with a little gap. So that battle for the podium with Rossi, Dovizioso and Spies, that group was really about a half-second faster than me all week. And a half-second at Laguna is a lot. Laguna is our shortest track in the whole championship as far as lap time. But for the race, very thankful the team. We made a few changes. We actually made a pretty big change for Sunday morning and maybe went a little too far. And then for the race, we a few small changes. Changed the weight balance, and the bike felt good in the race and was able to certainly do my best pace of the weekend by quite a ways. I can't be disappointed too bad with the race because after practice and qualifying, you know going into the race you're not just drop a second. I was able to drop about a half of a second. That's a big thanks to the team to keep working hard. The podium was only about a second in front of me, which I think I've had about four or five of those now this year. So that's not cool. But regardless, the race wasn't as bad as it could have been but certainly not as good as we had hoped on the way out there.
DEAN ADAMS: Gentlemen. Rog, I wonder if you can tell the press who weren't at Laguna how the test on the Moto2 bike went in the extreme heat, the desert heat, there in California.
R. HAYDEN: The test was really good, especially for the first test with the new bike. The Erion guys, they've built a lot of 600s, but they've never built a Moto2 bike. So there's a lot of different things they can do to it. And, as usual, we had a few little problems with the data to begin with, with some sensors and stuff. But not a whole lot. It was tough, 110 degrees, so it wasn't easy for me or the mechanics. But we get it running pretty quick right away. Some lap times that we know a couple of the AMA teams that have been out there before. We just kind of worked at our own pace. We had a plan, and we just stuck to it. I was just surprised at how smooth it went. And for me, it was also getting back used to riding a 600 coming from the Superbike. But I really enjoyed the bike. And I think me and the team and everybody at Honda left that test feeling encouraged for Indy.
ADAMS: Nick, post-race at Laguna, you said you were riding over your head, but you were going faster than ever before. That doesn't sound like the Nicky Hayden any of us have known for the last 15 years. Can you talk a little bit about what it's been like on that Ducati this season?
N. HAYDEN: Well, I didn't mean over my head. Maybe the way it sounded. But just on the limit. The last five laps there, I was just pushing hard. Rossi was bringing back Dovi, and I was bringing them both back. Spies was in the mix. So I didn't necessarily maybe mean over my head, but just riding on the absolute limit, definitely on the edge and maybe even over it a little bit. That's what it takes right now in MotoGP. We've seen this week. How many crashes were there this weekend and even during the race? Dani at the front was riding on the limit, and that's what it takes.
TIM ETHRIDGE: Nicky, five countries in six weeks. Can you talk about what it took a kid from Owensboro to get to the top of the profession the way you have? And how often do you get back to Owensboro?
N. HAYDEN: I'm in Owensboro right now. We just flew in, me and most of the whole crew flew in to Evansville last night. That's normally the airport we fly into. So we got home late last night. Back home now to regroup for the final push. We're basically midway through our season, so it's an important time. Obviously, we started it young. My parents both raced. Our whole family is into bikes and just grew up with always the goal, just having fun, but always really wanted to make a career out of it. And it was something we all loved to do. So we had hoped to parlay it into a career. Luckily had some good sponsors and caught some breaks along the way. And every time we got an opportunity, we just tried to make the most out of it. Started out dirt-tracking and then got into road racing, and turned professional at 15 and just worked my way up to the race here in the AMA. And with the AMA championship in 2002, was able to get opportunity to go to MotoGP.
ETHRIDGE: What is it about motorsports and Owensboro? You've got the Waltrips and the Greens and Mayfields in NASCAR, and you guys. Is there an atmosphere over there that's conducive to racing?
N. HAYDEN: If you look at the results, there has to be something, definitely. Owensboro's turned out a lot of good people in motorsports and even sports, in general, for the population. You'd be surprised. A lot of athletes have came from this area. I don't think there's necessarily one thing that sticks out. I think it is quite a central location. There is a lot of racing here in the Midwest for motorcycles, and I think that helps it.
CHRIS JONNUM: Nicky, in one of your answers there, you talked about making the most of opportunities. I know you and Roger have been aggressive about pursuing any possibility to race in World Championship, whether it be wild-card or moving up to MotoGP after winning your AMA championship. Tommy has been more content to stick around in domestic racing. Do you think he has any interest in dipping his toes in the water in world championship racing, and if so, how do you think he would do?
N. HAYDEN: I think if the right opportunity came up, sure, he would like it. He would like to win the AMA championship first. That's a big goal of his. He's right in a good position. Him and Hayes looks like going down to the wire, which is exciting for bike racing in America. He's won a lot of Supersport races and titles. I think more than anything, an opportunity hsan't came up. It's one of those things where you've got to be in the right place at the right time, like Rog this week on the MotoGP bike. He got that opportunity almost because of not really having a good, solid ride right now with something. Life is like that. Just be there, be whatever, when you're name is called. Step up and try to make a splash. But I certainly believe in Tommy's talent and think with the right opportunity, he could certainly cut it at the international level.
JONNUM: Roger, do you think this experience this weekend will have any kind of help for your upcoming Moto2 opportunity, or is it just an extra thing on the side, pretty much?
R. HAYDEN: No, I think this past weekend I learned a lot. The crew chief at LCR, he's been around for a long time. I learned a lot, believe me. I had no pressure on me, but he also gave me advice, a few times in practice, different things about stringing more laps together. I learned some stuff even for the World Superbike Championship this weekend that can help. I get to see a lot how the championship goes and how racing at the world level, going over different data. Just different things. You always try to learn from every circumstance. I felt like this weekend was a big opportunity for me, and I feel like I learned a lot. And I hope to carry it on for the rest of the year. I'm always trying to learn something, so I felt like any opportunity I can get, I can always keep using it.
RON LIEBACK: Up until around Round Six, the Dutch TT, you placed fourth a consistent four out of five rounds. But you didn't receive any (inaudible) until this weekend at Laguna, which by the way was an awesome race. What are the biggest struggles with the GP10, and do you think with more time on the bike next season, it will be even more positive?
N. HAYDEN: Well, the biggest struggle, this year we had new engine rules, which has made it hard on all the teams. But our team is hanging on pretty well. It's going to be interesting how that plays out as we go down the stretch. Sure, more time with the bike, more time with the team is always good. Next year, things aren't all settled down completely. But we did a big step from last year to this year, and I would hope to be able to do the same next year. The bike has improved a lot from last year, and the engineers there are really committed to wanting to make it the best bike on the grid. And I've seen a lot of improvements really from last year to this year. From rideability, reliable, more consistent bike. Yeah, I think the bike has a lot of potential that we haven't even got to yet.
LIEBACK: What's up with the haircut?
N. HAYDEN: Ah, nothing. Ain't nothing behind it or nothing like that. Yeah, that's not going to stick. That's not a full-time thing. It's a home GP deal.
DAVID EMMETT: Casey said at Laguna, and has been saying recently that basically he can't get anything more out of the bike. The bike, he's gone as fast as it can go. How do you feel about that? Do you feel you can still get more out of the bike to make another step, or do you really need some development time and some new parts to get it going?
N. HAYDEN: Well, it's a combination. I think the bike, in this game, if you're not improving, somebody else is. So you're going backward. Ducati, as the season goes on, it's not like we get a lot of new parts, this and that. Now they're focusing on next year and down the road. I'm sure we'll have some setup options and some ideas to test at the Brno test that we haven't tried yet. But as far do I expect some radical new parts? No. One of the things we need to sort out, we've been having big problems with our starts lately, me and Casey both. From me in Mugello to him at Silverstone and me again this week. Well, Barbera, what happened to him may have been related to the start. We can work that out. I know Casey, he's a good rider. He don't leave much out there. So I'm sure if he thinks the bike needs to improve, I hope we can improve it. But I think we have a good enough package to be winning races. Casey proved in Qatar, if he don't crash there, he wins that race quite easily. But that being said, we want to improve. We've seen a lot of the other teams making steps, especially Honda seems to have made a big step from the start of the season. So we need to do the same.
EMMETT: Do you know what you're going to be testing at Brno yet?
N. HAYDEN: We had a brief discussion about it Sunday night in the post-race meeting after Laguna. But I don't think it's nothing major. There's a few things, just some setup options that we haven't really had time to try the last couple races. But I don't expect anything major. Find out more this week when the engineers get back to Bologna. And even for the teams, two weeks off. It's been a busy little stretch for these guys, so they can all get back to the engineers at the shop and find out where our next step's going to be.
ADAMS: Nick, you said at Laguna that Indy is your home race. Ben Spies said home races are special because the bike is either going to be on the podium or in the crash truck. Do you hold with that? Are you going to try harder to win there than anywhere else? Friends and family, et cetera?
N. HAYDEN: You know, I'm not going to make any predictions or anything silly because I really feel like I try my hardest every week. But certainly, we'll go for it. Obviously we'll see when we get there what kind of pace we got. I can't make any bold predictions just yet, but certainly your home race you need to do something special and not leave anything on the table. So that's the plan.
ADAMS: At Indy, you'll be racing in front of more friends and family then anywhere else correct?
N. HAYDEN: Oh, yeah. By a long ways. Laguna is somewhat a home GP. But Indy, we drive. It's three hours away. I literally can see the Indiana border from my house sometimes. It's right there. I'm a Kentucky boy. We had a few of the OG's came out to Laguna, but most people, as far as friends and family, hang out and wait for Laguna. I really value my home GP because my first couple of years when I joined the World Championship, there was no stop in America. We'd go to all these races and see these guys having their home GP, and I thought how cool that was. The closest I got to home was Brazil. I thought having a three-hour flight and one-hour time change from Miami was kind of like a home GP. So now to have two of them in America, I get to take full advantage of it and really appreciate it.
HENNY RAY ABRAMS: Nicky, Sunday night you spoke about the problem with your hand. Is this something you're concerned about? Is there anything you can do about it between now and the race?
N. HAYDEN: We talked about it with the team. I don't think so. Kind of my fingers went to sleep. It's something that hasn't happened really since back in my AMA days. I had carpal tunnel, fixed it. Went away. Haven't had a problem since. I hope it was just a fluke deal. I was out on my bicycle this morning trying to feel about, "Do I feel anything strange?" We're looking into a few things. Really just put it down to a fluke deal.
RACE: Nicky, last year at Brno, you had a pretty good tussle with Colin and finished sixth. Do you anticipate being that high again? Is that a track you like?
N. HAYDEN: Brno is I think a track all riders like. It's very different than the last two tracks we went two. Sachsenring and Laguna are the two tightest, the two shortest lap times by a long ways. And the gearing is really tight. For those tracks, we're not in sixth gear much. Brno will be a big change. It's big; it's open. It's not a track that I just love. The tracks you love are the ones you get the best results on. I like Brno. I've been on the front row; I've been on the podium there. It's a track I (inaudible). Also it's important with that test. As limited as testing time is now in MotoGP, you really got to take advantage of any extra time. The motors we get to test with don't come out of our allocation. So you hope for good weather and hope to make a breakthrough. Last year at that test on the Monday, we changed something with the geometry and was able to take a little step from there. And my results improved from basically that test on. It was something we found in the last 30 minutes of the test. It had rained in the afternoon, and we had waited and waited, and the track finally dried. Everybody went out and was able to get some stuff in, so that's important.
MODERATOR: Roger, this is Paul Kelly from IMS. One final question before we end the call, for you. Talk about what it's like to have Kevin Schwantz as a team manager. To be able to go to a guy with questions who's … he's a legend. He's an American motorcycle racing legend. He's been there; he's done that. What advantage is that for you going into Indy on that Moto2 bike, having Kevin in your camp?
R. HAYDEN: For me, it's nice to have a guy like Kevin on your side. But it's an honor because Kevin was one of those guys who I looked up to when I was growing up. For him to pick me to ride his bike, he could have picked anybody in America who would have loved to jump on a good Honda at your home round, the GP. Even this weekend at Laguna, he went out and watched and came into my box and gave me some pointers and stuff. It's really beneficial. At Indy, he can go out and watch and come back and tell me. When we go to Barber next week and test, he's going to be there to watch. He gives good, positive feedback. A guy who races motorcycles is going to be able to help you a lot more than somebody who is just a bystander.
N. HAYDEN: I will say to the casual American fans that the Moto2 championship hasn't really maybe caught on here in America just yet because I don't think they completely understand it. But the fans that are coming to Indy, definitely be ready for some good racing because it's 35, 40 guys all within about two seconds. And I think Rog being in there might help draw some interest to the series, and if they give it a chance, they're going to like because we've seen some really good racing this year.
MODERATOR: That's great, that's great. Nick, you've got a future in PR after you get done with riding.
N. HAYDEN: Well, I'm being serious. I know the riders; I know the teams.
MODERATOR: I know, I know. (Laughter).
N. HAYDEN: We all like it. It's been pretty entertaining, that's for sure.
MODERATOR: Yeah, no doubt. Forty bikes going into the first turn there. It's super-exciting. Nicky and Roger, we sure appreciate you guys taking the time. Nick, enjoy your couple of weeks off here, and we look forward to seeing both of you at the end of August in Indianapolis.