The words that everyone was hoping not to hear were made official today – Nicky Hayden has passed at age 35. Hayden was involved in a collision with a car while cycling in Italy last week and succumbed to his injuries Monday evening.
It’s a loss that is felt worldwide as the “Kentucky Kid” with flat track roots rose from the ranks in AMA Superbike to achieve international success in the MotoGP World Championship.
The middle child of the Hayden family earned a list of accolades in his career. He scored his first Grand National Championship win in 1999 at the Hagerstown Half Mile and was named Rookie of the Year. That same year, he also earned his first professional championship in AMA Supersport. Hayden went on to become the youngest ever AMA Superbike Champion in 2002, beating Mat Mladin before moving on to the world stage of MotoGP.
In 2006, Hayden finally achieved his lifelong dream and was crowned MotoGP Champion in dramatic fashion at the season finale in Valencia, Spain. After a 13-year career in the World’s premier championship, he was inducted in the MotoGP Hall of Fame in 2015 at the same spot where he earned his title at Valencia.
Hayden then moved on to World Superbike to ride for the Honda World Superbike Team scoring a win at Sepang in his debut season.
While Hayden’s talent on a race track goes without question, Hayden will be remembered for who he was as a person. Dubbed by MotoGP as “the nicest man in Grand Prix racing,” Hayden set the bar for professional racers with his work ethic, level of professionalism and the time he always set aside for his fans.
He is survived by his father Earl, mother Rose, brothers Tommy and Roger, sisters Jenny and Kathleen, and his fiance Jackie Marin.