Wet conditions for Friday practice at Indianapolis gave home hero Nicky Hayden the chance he needed to fight for first position.
The Ducati rider 'went for it' and got within 0.155sec of former Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa on his very last lap of the afternoon - Pedrosa having set his lap time much earlier in the hour.
“It feels good to be near the top again!” smiled Nicky, second in last year's storm-shortened race for Repsol Honda. “The bike felt pretty good from the beginning and after trying something new on the other bike, which didn't work, we went back to the standard setting and went from there.
“The track was really tricky because there were sections with a lot of standing water and others where the grip was amazing - you had to be really on your toes. Midway through the session a funny line formed - I'm not sure if some kind of chemical came up through the asphalt from when they cleaned it but it was pretty slick.
“Over the last couple of laps I just went for it because I knew I had a chance to be on top today and this is the highest I've been in any session this year."
Although it's the best start Hayden has had to a grand prix this season, the 2006 world champion warned that - with the weather expected to improve - he could well regret the 'lost session' later on in the weekend.
"Indy is good to me in the wet. Last year it was good in the wet. If I get a good result, I don't care if it snows," he said. "Truthfully though I need dry track time because I tend to start the weekend slowly and build up, so to lose a session to the weather is not an advantage to me. We need to start out strong in the morning and go from there.
"My job is on the line. So it is good to come here and man up with it. But I've got to do it Sunday. Ain't nobody going to remember Friday afternoon.”
Team-mate Mika Kallio began his second weekend as a factory Ducati rider with eleventh position, but almost 2.5sec behind Pedrosa.