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Nicky “The Kentucky Kid” Hayden 1981-2017

A terribly sad story broke today that breaks the hearts of sport bike fans and riders all around the world. Nicky “The Kentucky Kid” Hayden has died following injuries sustained after being hit by a vehicle while riding his bicycle in Italy last Wednesday. He was only 35. He was hit by a car while training on his bike along the Rimini coast. He was rushed to the ICU of Cesena’s Maurizio Bufalini Hospital, where he would remain in very serious condition, having suffered “serious cerebral damage.” This is truly a heartbreaking story for all of the MotoGP world. Being such fans of the MotoGP, and Nicky himself, we want to talk a little bit about Nicky and his racing career.

“Bikes & Family”

You don’t just upset Valentino Rossi in the MotoGP without practice. Nicky Hayden was always a family man. Since he was 3 years old, Nicky would spend 4 hours a day racing around the backyard on his bike with his brothers. All he ever wanted to be was a World Champion. Think his family was important? Just look at the three words on his twitter. “Bikes and Family.” He grew up in a town that birthed seven Nascar drivers, but he grew up on 2 wheels. His father Earl was a dirt track racer for 20 years, and his mother and 2 sister also competed. All three of the Hayden boys would become pro riders. 

“I was bred into it. Bikes are more than just a job for us. It’s a way of life,” Hayden told the BBC in 2013.

The Kentucky Kid

Widely respected and admired amongst his peers, Hayden was very popular. Some of his peers would refer to his real, unchangeable spirit. Consistently being himself and never getting lost in the glory of victory. He earned the respect of riders and commentators over the course of his career. Valentino Rossi would call him “one of my best friends in racing.” Former commentator Steve Parrish says “He never changed, from the first moment I met him as a 17-year-old kid to world champion.”

World Champion

In July of 2006, after winning the US Grand Prix, Hayden held a comfortable 51-point advantage over Valentina Rossi, who was on a 5 year winning streak. Rossi would reclaim the lead at Estoril following a Hayden mishap. But on the final race of the season, it would be Rossi who would collide with a teammate and slide out, finishing 13th. That day, Hayden would take 3rd, enough to give him the 2006 MotoGP World Championship. Here’s what Steve Parrish had to say about that magical moment, forever remembered by racers all over the world.

“His dad got on the back of his bike, they were both in tears. That’s the overriding memory of Nicky that I will remember. It was a dream picture – he achieved the greatest title in motorcycle racing.”

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Nicky Hayden will be missed. Losing a rider to an accident is always a blow to the sport, but seeing such a bright young soul perish due to an accident off of the track is truly tragic. Although Nicky won’t be around any longer, the respect he gained amongst his competitors and his authentic respect for the sport will never die. Here are just a few more of the responses from Hayden’s former competitors.

James Toseland – MotoGP rider

“He was a guy with so much dedication, passion, drive and motivation and was so humble with it all, even after being a world champion. It never changed him one bit.

Mark Webber – F1 Driver

A beautiful person, genuine and real. RIP mate.

Suzi Perry – BBC MotoGP Presenter

We adored him, impossible not to. The coolest person I’ve had the pleasure to know. All love to his family & Jackie. God bless #NickyHayden

Scott Redding – British MotoGP rider

Just heart breaking. Nicky was more than just a true hero in my eyes. I send my love from deep inside my heart. R.I.P Kentucky Kid #69

Jorge Lorenzo – Former MotoGP Champion

So sad. I can’t believe how life can be so cruel. All my condolence to Nicky’s family and friends. #RIPNickyHayden

 

RIP Nicky Hayden

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