Nicky Hayden still cherishes the short drive from his old Kentucky home to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Colin Edwards, like
another Texas racer, still appreciates the history of the track.
Both Americans can plan on making return trips to Indy next year, too.
Shortly after the first Indianapolis MotoGP practice started Friday, speedway CEO Jeff Belskus told The Associated Press that the two sides had agreed to a one-year contract extension, assuring Indy of a place on the 2011 schedule.
"It's a good event, a profitable event for us and we love having the bikes and the riders here," Belskus said. "The community enjoys having them here."
And, perhaps most important, the riders like putting on a good show here.
Belskus didn't provide details of the new contract though he did acknowledge one-year deals have been the norm for the track's two biggest races — the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400. MotoGP originally signed a three-year deal to race at the speedway, the only oval-road course combination on the international circuit.
With the current contract expiring after this season, Belskus had been seeking an extension.
In July, on the 1-year anniversary of his first race as the speedway's chief executive, Belskus said he expected a deal to be completed before Sunday's race. They beat the deadline.
"I think it (Indianapolis) is special for anybody, but for me, it's double because it's so close to my house," Hayden said Thursday. "To drive to a MotoGP race for me is still, the third year, kind of seems strange because my first couple of years in GP there was no American rounds."
There are now two American races on the schedule — Laguna Seca, traditionally run in late July, and Indy, which will be held Aug. 26-28, 2011.
Edwards, like fellow Texan A.J. Foyt, prefers this course over California.
"I have some memories of this place, most of them televised that I was watching, and to be here, in the same paddock, in the motor homes, just being in this area, it's something special," Edwards said. "They've done a great job with it, to build a motorcycle track here."
It's not just the Americans who like coming to Indy.
Spain's Jorge Lorenzo seems primed for another strong performance this weekend after posting the second fastest lap in Friday's practice: 1 minute, 41.109 seconds. Australian Casey Stoner, who finished fourth in the hurricane-like marred race of 2008, posted the day's best time, 1:40.884. Hayden was third at 1:41.405.
The track also seems to play into Lorenzo's strengths, good news for the man having his best MotoGP season.
He has seven wins and three runner-up finishes in the first 10 races, only the third rider in the 62-year history of the sport to achieve the feat. He holds a 77-point lead over Dani Pedrosa, Indy's defending pole winner, with seven races to go and can join Indy's short list of back-to-back winners with another victory Sunday.
"I made my first podium in rain here, and last year, I won," he said. "It (Indy) is very special with a lot of history and a lot of races here in the past."
The big question for the speedway is how many people will show up on race day?
Attendance is expected to drop from 2009, but organizers are anticipating a crowd in the 50,000 to 70,000 range — numbers that are good enough for the track to make money and, Belskus hopes, to keep MotoGP in Indy for the long term.
"We love having them here, and those guys have been great to Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Belskus said.