Marc Marquez - It's not so much that Marc Marquez swept the US rounds for a hat trick of wins. It's more that he completely wrecked the country, patted its rear and strolled out of the room whistling. He may have thrown a saucy wink over his shoulder on exit. To review: at Austin's Circuit of the America's, a track that no team had visited previously, Marquez surprised the field by putting down a stunning lap for pole position. He then shocked the world by absolutely dominating the field, passing championship contenders Lorenzo and Pedrosa seemingly at will before claiming the checkered flag. With COTA being the series' newest destination there was talk that he had perhaps simply learned the ideal line and cleverly leaped ahead of the more established riders. When the GP circus rolled into California's Laguna Seca he promptly stamped those rumors down, ground them with his heel and scraped them into the trash. Though he conceded pole position to satellite Honda's Stefan Bradl, Marquez still kept the factory Honda firmly in the spotlight. While the rest of the field may have had the advantage of experience at Laguna - Moto2, and by association Marquez, does not participate in California round - Marquez proved that the incredible pace at which he can learn a track was not a fluke. Not the least of his accomplishments was repeating one of the most talked about passes in recent GP history on the person who previously made it - Yamaha's own Valentino Rossi - at the infamous Corkscrew, before trouncing Bradl and galloping to the finish. A brief pause for the summer break and then Marquez was back to work at Indy. From a new track, to a new-to-me track, the Repsol clad rider now found himself in somewhat familiar territory and it showed. With the scales again leveled Marquez once again sat atop pole position, which he ten translated into another dominating win. Once again in control of the championship and with a healthy lead to boot, Marquez finds himself in the most dangerous position for his rivals - comfortable on the bike and back in familiar territory as the circus returns to Europe.
Valentino Rossi - Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow probably said it best, "I covered the line, but he still made it through, so... bastard!" The sentiment is certainly understandable. Rossi entered the Indy weekend feeling uneasy at best about his Yamaha M1. Experiencing almost the exact opposite of the problem that Cal reported, the flags went out and left Rossi in metaphoric darkness. The extra traction afforded by the new rubber tended to overwhelm the Yamaha's front end under Rossi's settings, dramatically cutting his time as he resorted to mid-pack amidst the satellite bikes and CRTs. And the Ducatis. Midway through the race, however, it all changed. As the grip from the rear decreased Rossi was able to ride the bike more to his style. Despite dropping anywhere from 5 to 7 seconds back, Rossi charged hard to catch the battle for 4th place - a far cry from a podium position as Lorenzo in third was off in the distance by a country mile, but a fair sight better than his 9th place qualifying. Neither Crutchlow aboard the satellite Yamaha M1 nor Alvaro Bautista on his satellite Honda RC213 deemed to make the experiencing easy for the past champion. However after gaining on the battling pair at almost a second per lap in the closing stages of the race, a pass had almost an air of inevitability to it. While he dispatched Bautista with little drama, Rossi found Crutchlow a much harder nut to crack. The British rider left barely a sliver of clean air in the final corners, but that it might as well have been an open highway. Rossi pushed through, hit the front of the small group and claimed the final position. He now hopes that both himself and the team learned something critical about how the new M1 responds to setup. Brno has been a fertile hunting ground for the Italian, and as he closes up in the championship points he will need all of the assistance that he can get.
Nicky Hayden - It's official, Nicky Hayden is leaving the Ducati ranks at the end of the season. For those on the sidelines it's not so much the press releases from both parties confirming the dissolution of their factory collaboration in Moto GP. Nor is it the press conference answers from the American rider hinting at offers in both Moto GP and World Superbikes. Instead it is the very physical pass that the Marlboro Man put on teammate Andrea Dovizioso in the closing seconds of the Indianapolis GP. Ever the company man, Nicky Hayden has built a reputation on being an almost squeaky clean racer. This has sometimes come to his detriment. As late as this season, Nicky has had unfavorable run ins with teammate Andrea Dovizioso. New to the factory Ducati team, Dovi has been eager to establish himself as Ducati's top rider. With the much documented problems that plague the GP13 Ducati's factory riders often find themselves in close proximity to each other on track, a rock meeting a hard place with the expected fireworks resulting. The two first came together earlier this year at Assen when Hayden was leading and Dovizioso made a hard pass to beat him to the line. Next came Laguna Seca, where Nicky was once again leading his teammate. Only their handlebars touched this time, but the move visibly affected Nicky's bike as Dovi pipped him for position. Then came Indy, where the situations were reversed and where Nicky was released from any professional restrictions to be a company man. Suddenly the Kentucky Kid was just that - a down south farmboy rough housing in the fields. Sparks flew again, but this time when the rubber met (rejoined) the road Dovi was the second man to cross the line. Whether the 2006 world champion continues in the same vein remains to be seen, but at least one rider likely be more wary of hard passes in the future.