Sports

'Kentucky Kid' gets 2nd in fresh, 'hip' Indy event

INDIANAPOLIS — The only thing that stopped Valentino Rossi was the weather.

Taking the lead from Kentuckian Nicky Hayden on the 14th lap, Rossi easily began pulling away before a sudden rainstorm and swirling wind stopped the inaugural Indianapolis GP eight laps from the finish. Locked into first place, the Italian rider pulled into the pits and waited about a half-hour until Sunday's race was officially halted.

"The wind is very inconstant and very strong. You never know what's going to happen with the bike," Rossi said. "Every lap, I look and I say, 'I hope for the red flag, I hope for the red flag.' It was a good decision."

This was the first time motorcycles competed at the Speedway since 1909, the year the track was built and two years before the first Indianapolis 500.

It also brought a whole new look to the speedway. American bikers mingled with Europeans at the MotoGP race, turning the famed infield into an eclectic mix that was part NASCAR, part Formula One.

When speedway officials couldn't agree to an extension to keep the United States Grand Prix, speedway president Joie Chitwood and IRL founder Tony George replaced it with the first motorcycle race at the track in nearly a century.

Clearly, this was different from F1. One woman walked into the track Friday with hot pink hair; interstate signs warned motorists of increased motorcycle traffic.

There were more T-shirts and tank tops than the customary team gear from F1. Some even came in leather motorcycle pants.

Scott Totel fulfilled a lifelong dream by making the five-hour trek from Port Washington, Wis., to don an orange shirt that read "The Kentucky Kid," a reference to Hayden, the 2006 world champion who is from Owensboro.

Daniel Vloedmanis flew in from England and sported an Engligh flag around his neck.

There was a distinctly European flavor, too.

"There's that feel of a hip, cool crowd and it's a little different than just pulling a cooler behind you," Chitwood said Sunday. "It's fun."

Drivers and fans were pelted with rain throughout the race. At one point just before the race was stopped, two fans were injured when a manufacturer's tent collapsed. Both were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, speedway spokesman.

There were so many new people at the speedway that Chitwood instructed track workers to be more helpful in providing assistance and directions.

Next year could be even better. The Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 30, before the NFL season and NASCAR's Cup chase begin.

"The bulk of the crowd I've seen is not an Indy Motor Speedway crowd," he said. "I think it's always good when we can bring new people to the track."

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