SHEHEEN: The Loss Of A Champion

Nicky Hayden
The world lost a great racing champion when Nicky Hayden died on May 22. (Red Bull Honda Photo)
Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The passing of 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden from injuries suffered in an accident while training on his road bicycle in Italy was heartbreaking.

Known as the “Kentucky Kid,” Nicky had earned a reputation as a champion both on and off the track.

His victories and titles in racing were many. Along with his wins and championship in the sport’s highest echelon of competition, MotoGP, Nicky was also one of only a few to have won in MotoGP and the World Superbike Championship. He won this country’s biggest motorcycle road race as well, the Daytona 200, along with the AMA Superbike crown.

He was just as accomplished on the dirt, sliding his flat-track bike to wins at legendary venues such as Peoria and Springfield.

Hayden was raised racing on the dirt with his brothers and sisters at the end of Earl’s Lane in their hometown of Owensboro, Ky., on the backyard race track that his father, Earl, carved out of the Kentucky soil.
It was that humble upbringing and close-knit family bond that made Nicky a champion as a person. He was a rock star. Smoke pouring off the rear tire as he slid his powerful Hondas and Ducatis around road courses throughout the world, while flashing a big smile for the camera on the grid and bringing trends to the paddock that even the usually cutting-edge Europeans had not envisioned.

But in the end, deep inside he was just Earl and Rose’s boy — still a part of “Earl’s Race Team,” and lucky to live out his dream on a world stage. He never forgot where he came from, and the fans loved him for it.

His easy-going personality and southern drawl were very different compared to the hyper intensity of the young Spanish riders and the legendary Italians such as Valentino Rossi.

But when it came to banging bars and fairings, they learned quickly that when the visor went down, the one known as “Nicky Bobby” to his good friends was not afraid to swap some paint at 200 mph. That attitude earned him the title of the FIM’s Legends, their Hall of Fame.

It’s very hard to wrap your head around how we lost Nicky. A man who was legendary for his exploits of dancing on the edge of disaster, racing at warp speeds on an absolutely ridiculously powerful beast, lost his life while riding a bicycle on a warm sunny day in Italy. Many things in life are not easy to understand.

Rest in peace “Kentucky Kid.”

– A.J. Foyt has he received a personal invitation from Edsel Ford III to attend this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The event will 50 years since Foyt and Dan Gurney won at the legendary Sarthe circuit in the Ford GT 40 Mk IV. Foyt is planning to go.

– Bob Sargent had a rough week of promoting races in and around Indy. The May 24 Tony Hulman Classic USAC sprint car race at Terre Haute Action Track and the Hoosier Hundred USAC Silver Crown event at the Indiana State Fairgrounds were both rained out. The fairgrounds event has a field of 44 Silver Crown machines waiting to do battle.

However, they did get in all 100 laps of the Carb Night Classic with the rain falling shortly after the USAC Silver Crown machines took the checkered flag.

Sargent is committed to growing these three races and making them can’t miss events while fans are in Indy for the 500.