When Roger Hayden took the checkered flag in the MotoAmerica Superbike season finale at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park at the end of September, it marked the close of several eras.
One is the era of the Hayden brothers, which started back in 1995 when the eldest brother, Tommy Hayden, made his AMA professional racing debut. Two years later came Nicky and then finally Roger in 1999.
Lesser known is that Roger was the last rider who experienced the big- money era of AMA Pro road racing, which roughly ran from 1995 to the beginnings of the recession in 2007. Roger Hayden did well enough during his 20-year racing career that he’ll never have to work again if he chooses not to. That’s a retirement option few, if any, of today’s crop of domestic motorcycle road racers are likely to enjoy.
At 35, he could have continued racing for at least another three or four years, but Hayden began feeling the time had come to consider hanging up his racing leathers.
“This is not something I’ve decided lightly,” Hayden explained. “I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. I’ve been going to races on the weekends since I was 9 and I just thought it was the right time to move on to the next chapter in my life. I want to spend more time with my wife and maybe do some traveling and start a family at some point soon.
“Yoshimura and Suzuki have felt like a family to me,” Hayden added. “Don (Sakakura) and Pat (Alexander) are more like friends to me than a boss. We talk about life, sports, you name it and it’s just been a pleasure to be part of the team. I’ve had some of my greatest success with Yoshimura Suzuki and the entire team has always worked hard at giving me great motorcycles to race.
“I would like to stay involved in racing in some way. I enjoy working with the young riders and we’ll see what the future holds.”
Hayden followed in the footsteps of his older brothers into the professional racing ranks as both flat track and road racers. Like Roger, both Tommy and Nicky spent time racing for Suzuki.
The massive success enjoyed by all three Haydens made them, perhaps, the best-known brother trio in the history of motorcycle racing. An entire generation of fans grew up watching and rooting for the Hayden brothers. Perhaps the highlight of their career as a racing family was when Nicky, Tommy and Roger swept the podium at the 2002 Springfield TT AMA Grand National. It marked the first and only time in the long history the AMA Grand National Championship that brothers completed a podium sweep.
Roger Hayden grew up in a racing family in Owensboro, Ky. His father and mother (Earl and Rose) raced motorcycles, as did his sisters Kathleen and Jenny. He entered his first race at the age of 6 and was a nationally known rider by the time he turned pro in 1999. Roger also earned the prestigious AMA Horizon Award in 1998 when he was just 15.
Roger Hayden launched his professional road racing career in 1999. He showed amazing potential when he scored an impressive fifth-place result in the AMA 750cc Supersport race at Road Atlanta. From there, his results became more impressive with each season. He scored his first AMA 750 Superstock podium finish at age 17. His first two seasons racing as a pro road racer were aboard Suzuki GSX-Rs.
In 2006, he was named AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year and in 2007 Hayden won the AMA Supersport Championship riding for Kawasaki.