Nicky Hayden became the first factory Ducati rider other than Casey Stoner to stand on a MotoGP podium since Loris Capirossi in 2007, in front of his home fans in Sunday's Indianapolis Grand Prix.

Second as a Repsol Honda rider in last year's storm-shortened race, Hayden didn't even want to talk about a podium repeat ahead of the 2009 event - after such a tough first season with Ducati.

Hayden came into round twelve with a best finish of fifth and 14th in the world championship, but left with a third place finish and twelfth in the standings.

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The American, riding in a special patriotic livery for race day, held his dry-qualifying best of sixth in the early stages, which became fifth and then fourth when Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi crashed ahead of him.

A pass on countryman Colin Edwards put Hayden into a rostrum position by lap 10 of 28, but he had to fight hard to hold off Repsol replacement and 2009 race winner Andrea Dovizioso in the closing stages.

Under intense pressure, Hayden held on to cross the finish line half-a-second clear of the Italian and to cheers of approval from the 75,000 fans.

"It feels great to be on the podium here at Indianapolis and I want to thank all the team, my friends, family and fans for their support," said Hayden. "It's been a hard season. Certainly been the biggest challenge of my life to try to understand this bike and team, but we've slowly made some progress, progress, progress.

"I didn't want to open my mouth, but I knew I had a chance at the podium today. I knew, like Lorenzo said, that the pace at the front is so high that something could happen, and I had to be there to capitalise on it.

"We were able to put ourself in a good position, caught a couple breaks, couple guys tipped over, and got on the podium, I'm really happy. It's not a win, but it feels really good being up there and spraying the bubbly. I'm just going to try to enjoy it.

"I was really careful at the start because I watched the 125cc race earlier on and the guy in my grid position made a jump start - it made me think that I really didn't want to do that today!

"So I didn't get a great start but I saw Lorenzo charge past a few guys, making a hole in the pack, so I tried to follow him. I pushed hard and in the middle of the race I went as fast as I have all weekend, but I didn't have any more than that.

"Dovizioso came on strong at the end so I gave myself a little pep talk and made sure I was ready for whatever he had. I was telling myself, 'if he wants your podium at Indy, he's got to take it from you, don't give it to him'. Dovi is a fighter, so it was tough, but I enjoyed it.

"I certainly hope we can build on this podium. Not that we're out of the woods yet. Every time I start getting too confident, this bike puts me back in my place real quick, and I have to start over. So I'll just stay relaxed, stay humble, stay hungry and not get too confident yet. There's still a lot of racing to go this season, and a couple tracks I really like."

The podium was perfect timing, coming just one week before Ducati must decide if it wants to take up its option on Hayden for 2010 and he received personal congratulations from Ducati Corse General Director Filippo Preziosi 'father' of the Desmosedici project.

"I want to congratulate Nicky because even in difficult times he has always believed in Ducati and he has never given up, working hard and staying focused," said Preziosi. "Without his feedback we would have never been able to work out a set-up to suit him and it is in this area, as well as in performance, where a rider makes the difference! I also want to thank Vitto [Guareschi, test rider] and all the guys at Ducati Corse, who have worked like Nicky - never losing heart.

"Casey, we're waiting for you and we know you will be back even stronger than ever," he added, referring to Ducati's absent world champion, who is missing three rounds to try and regain full fitness after struggling with fatigue problems.