2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden never won a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but “The Kentucky Kid” still was one of the most popular, talented and respected racers on two or four wheels to compete at the Racing Capital in the World in the last decade.
Hayden, from Owensboro, Kentucky, passed away May 22 from injuries suffered when he was struck by a car while cycling May 17 in Rimini, Italy, where he was preparing for the next round of the World Superbike Championship. He was 35.
“Everyone at IMS mourns the loss of our friend Nicky Hayden,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “When you met Nicky, you immediately felt you had known him for years. His humility and sincerity always made genuine connections with everyone, as he truly was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet in racing. Nicky was a tireless ambassador for MotoGP at the Speedway and a passionate supporter of all events at IMS.
“When MotoGP first came to IMS in 2008, we soon learned family and his beloved Owensboro meant everything to Nicky. We offer our thoughts, prayers, and condolences to his parents, Rose and Earl; his fiancée, Jackie; his brothers, Tommy and Roger; his sisters, Jenny and Kathleen; and to all his friends, teammates and legions of fans around the world. He will always be remembered fondly at IMS.”
Hayden raced in six of the eight Red Bull Indianapolis GP events at IMS from 2008-15, competing for Repsol Honda, Ducati and the Aspar Racing Team. He finished on the podium in his first two starts at IMS, placing second in 2008 with Repsol Honda and third in 2009 with Ducati. He missed the 2012 race due to a broken hand suffered in a crash during qualifying and the 2014 race due to a wrist injury.
“The Kentucky Kid” was arguably the most popular rider during MotoGP’s eight-year run at IMS, rivaled only by his good friend and seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi. Hayden’s trademark No. 69 was seen on hats, T-shirts and banners everywhere at IMS, and big crowds flocked to fan forums in the infield to hear his self-effacing, funny answers to questions in his inimitable Kentucky twang.
Hayden also worked eagerly and often to promote the Red Bull Indianapolis GP, visiting the track and meeting media and racers from IndyCar and NASCAR during the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and other events.
In 2008, Hayden was the centerpiece of two of the most memorable promotional activities in recent IMS history. He eagerly donned a period-specific leather cap, goggles, IMS sweater, knickers and riding boots to turn the first laps on the newly paved IMS motorcycle road course on an Indian motorcycle that competed in the first motorized race at the Speedway, in 1909. A month later, he rode a long, smoky burnout down the front straightaway and across the Yard of Bricks on his high-revving Repsol Honda, carrying an American flag, during pre-race ceremonies for the Indianapolis 500.
SOURCE: Indianapolis Motor Speedway