NICKY HAYDEN: We Remember The Kentucky Kid
Time and time again, I found myself at race events or in front of the screen where Nicky captured the imagination and hearts of the racing world. I watched as he earned the MotoGP Rookie of the Year Award after finishing fifth as a rookie. I whooped and hollered and hugged my friends on the side of the track as Nicky finished first at the Laguna Seca round in 2005. Cheered with joy as he won the MotoGP championship in 2006, besting the greatest rider of all time, Valentino Rossi. He gave American motorcyclists a reason to be proud.
So you can imagine the unbearable weight felt when I learned Nicky passed away from a car accident while riding a bicycle. All the range of emotions swept over me as I recalled the time meeting Nicky at Laguna Seca while he was riding in MotoGP with Ducati. Feeling like my legs had been swept from underneath me, I was confused. I’m not one to lament celebrity death, but this passing was stinging. How could an icon be removed from us at the early age of 35? He had so much unresolved business in World Superbike. He was the highest performing American in either MotoGP or World Superbike and he was gone.
It was a stroke of luck that I found myself at Donington Park for the next round of World Superbike racing. I was eager to see Nicky come to grips with the new Honda Fireblade. Instead, I was in the front row paying respects to Nicky along with thousands of other race fans at the track. It was a solemn ten minutes; fans all over the world paid their respects to the Kentucky Kid. They honored him with their silence. They honored him with their applause. We honor his memory by simply keeping him in ours.