An easy laugh, a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a laid-back
Kentucky drawl belie the intensity and focus Nicky Hayden applies to racing. Part
of the Ducati Marlboro MotoGP Team, the Owensboro, KY, native began riding at
the age of three and racing at age five.
After going pro in 1997, then-16-year-old Hayden took five wins
during his rookie season in the AMA Supersport classes in 1998. The following
year, he competed in three different classes of the AMA series, as well as the
Grand National Flat Track series, taking the AMA 600 Supersport title and
earning the Ricky Graham Rookie of the Year award and the AMA SpeedVision
Athlete of the Year award. By 2002, he became the youngest rider in the history
of Superbike to win the series championship.
The newly crowned champ moved up to the highest level in 2003,
taking on the 800cc prototype bikes of MotoGP. He scored his first MotoGP
victory in 2005 at Laguna Seca and captured the Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing
World Championship in 2006.
Highly competitive and extremely driven, Hayden competed in the
Grand National Flat Track series during his "off weekends" as an AMA rider,
adding five national victories to his resume. To this day, he typically spends
his downtime racing bikes and can often be found at another racetrack when not
competing in MotoGP.
When he's not racing, testing or practicing, Hayden is usually conditioning
for a race. In addition to running, cross-training and working out at the gym,
he does a lot of bicycling. "It's good base training," he says. "It's important
to keep weight off and be light. Bicycle training helps with that and is a good
Taking advantage of a break in the summer racing schedule, Hayden
flew to Indianapolis to demonstrate his bicycling form at the Major Taylor
Velodrome with the Marian University Zipp Cycling Team in early August. It
didn't matter that he chose a day when the heat index topped 110 degrees; the
Kentucky native is accustomed to Midwestern humidity and excessive heat. In
fact, training in the heat helps prepare him for race conditions.
"Malaysia is really hot," he says, referring to the Malaysian
Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang. "You're wearing leathers and the bike puts off
heat, too. It's challenging: during the draft, there's less air, so it doesn't
cool off. It's such a physical thing; you're on the edge every corner, every
lap. It takes a lot of fitness, a lot of strength mentally and physically. You
have to be prepared for the heat."
He may be able to handle the heat, but he's less prepared to be
put in the hot seat. Exhibiting a slight resemblance to guitarist Dave Navarro
– sans tattoos and depending on his facial hair grooming – the
29-year-old motorcycle racer self-consciously ducks all questions regarding his
love life and "groupies" with a bashful laugh. "It's hot out here; are you
going to let me off the hook?" he begs.
Hayden may not want to talk about his "fan club," but the athlete
is immensely popular around the world, especially since winning the MotoGP
championship. "It was huge; it changed things. I have a lot more opportunities
What it didn't change was his desire to succeed. He says he's even
hungrier than before because winning felt great, and he's determined to work
his way back to the top, this time on the back of a Ducati.
His boyish charm and down-to-earth appeal, combined with
indisputable talent and a willingness to perform, make him a public relations
dream come true. The special edition 848 that Ducati North America put on the
market last year sold out within a couple of weeks, thanks to Hayden. His photo
shoot for Tissot, the Swiss watchmaker, illustrates his model-like good looks can
translate into marketability.
Trading on that marketability, Hayden has collaborated on a book, The
Haydens: Nicky, Tommy, & Roger, From OWB To MotoGP, and recently completed work on his MTV special, The
Kentucky Kid. The young entrepreneur also
has his own signature line of clothing. Modestly relegating himself to the role
of advisor for the line of casual wear, he says, "I don't design; I just give
my opinion." Nevertheless, he is responsible for unique race-inspired
Whether his modified Mohawk, accented with racing stripes shaved
into the sides of his scalp, will influence hairstyles has yet to be seen. But
his sense of humor has earned him a following. Life isn't all work and no play
for the Kentucky Kid, as he's affectionately nicknamed, no matter how much he
claims to enjoy training and racing. His fun-loving nature is demonstrated by
an amusing video he posted in which he "interviews" his father after a scooter
Family plays a central role in Hayden's life. "My family supported
me as a kid," he says simply. In fact, his parents crisscrossed the country in
a box van, taking the three Hayden boys from one dirt track to the next in the
early days. As an homage to his father, the MotoGP champ adopted his old
When Hayden returns to Indianapolis for the Red Bull Indianapolis
GP MotoGP, family will be with him. In fact, younger brother Roger Lee will
compete in the Moto2 race for Team Honda/Moriwaki. Nicky believes it will add
to the weekend, but he jokes that the brother he shared a room with until he
turned 18 will have to learn the hard way: "no puppy love!" Upon reflection, he
relents, saying, "He can help me. We'll be on the same track the same weekend.
He might have some good feedback."
Feedback is particularly important in light of a rules change that
has limited testing, but any feedback he has is unlikely to be shared with his
Ducati teammate, Casey Stoner. "We share information a little," he hedges, "but
we want to beat each other. It's a touchy subject."
Discounting the disadvantage of newly instituted testing limits,
Hayden admits it's a "big challenge" to have less testing time, but says it's
enough. "Half the time, we were testing tires. Now that we run spec tires, we
can eliminate a lot of testing since we're not developing them." Unwilling to
admit that wind tunnel testing and reviewing computer data aren't his favorite
ways to spend a day, he insists that he enjoys "anything to help us go faster."
After a dismal first season with Ducati last year that saw Hayden
fall to his lowest-ever position in the points as he struggled to come to grips
with a new bike – the Desmosedici GP9 – and his new team, anything
that helps him go faster is welcome.
Crediting his team for adapting well to the new rules package and
a new engine that makes it "smoother off the bottom, more predictable, easier
to get some feel into it and a little bit less radical," he considers last year
a "transitional year," pointing out that he spent the previous nine years with
Honda. Not only did he switch to a new team, he also changed to a new tire:
Things are going better this year. Sitting 6th in the
points as they came off the summer break, he feels "more comfortable with the
bike, the team [and] with everything that's going on around me," he says. "I value the way Ducati go about things and I
understand the Italian way better. We're on the same page. I like the
bike better this year; it's more suited to me."
Whether the team caters to him more, as Hayden believes, or
there's simply a better understanding between him and his Italian team, he has
been able to make the bike work better, resulting in consistent top 4th
and 5th finishes and fighting for race wins. "We've been in the top
five a lot, but we need to take that next step and do better," he admonishes
himself. "We have the package to do it. I know I can do it. I don't need to
talk about. I just need to go out and do it when it counts."
It would count big if he did it at Indianapolis, where he has
finished on the podium in the previous two MotoGP races. "I like the track
quite a lot," Hayden says about racing at the Brickyard. "It suits my style. Indy
has unique sections off the oval to the infield that make it impossible to set
up the bike for the transitions. You need good grip for the fast sections. The
Ducati should work well there so we'll see."
Explaining that he likes any track where he's had a good result,
he says Australia is one of his favorites because it's on the ocean, it's
really fast and it's not easy. "You need guts."
Indianapolis Motor Speedway may not have an ocean view, but it has
atmosphere, and Hayden likes that. Plus, because it's the closest race to his
home, he has a lot of support from family and friends in attendance. As he
says, it's a "special race with a lot of expectations."
Expectations beyond Indianapolis also run high. Recognizing the
pressure for one of the three front-running American riders (which includes
Tech 3 Yamaha teammates Colin Edwards and Ben Spies) to win, he believes the
Ducati team has "a good enough package to be winning races.
"The bike has improved a lot from last year, and the engineers
there are really committed to wanting to make it the best bike on the grid.
I've seen a lot of improvements from last year in terms of rideability,
reliability, and it's a more consistent bike. I think the bike has a lot of potential
that we haven't even got to yet. But, having said that, we still want to
Continually focused on improvement, Hayden had
surgery on his right arm during the off-season to clean up some scar tissue
from an earlier injury. Suffering from compartmental syndrome, commonly known
as arm-pump, he says his arm is good and his body is healthy. At 29, he
considers himself in his racing prime. "It's not just about being young
and fearless; you've gotta' be smart. It's a long season – you have to
find that balance. I hope my best days are still ahead."
He also hopes the days ahead will be with Ducati. Although he
hasn't ruled out racing with four wheels – and even swapped seats 10
years ago with Michael Andretti, spinning out in an Indy car at Mid-Ohio Sports
Car Course – he remains "fully committed" to bikes at this time.
More importantly, he remains committed to Ducati. "I've been
blessed with this opportunity. I love the team and the bike," he insists. The
team reportedly loves him too, having been impressed by his passion,
determination and commitment.
Ducate is expected to announce a one-year contract extension at
Indianapolis, teaming him with legendary rider Valentino Rossi in 2011. Rossi
is leaving Yamaha after seven seasons and four world titles. Hayden's current
teammate Stone has already announced a move to Honda, where he is expected to
be joined by American Ben Spies.
Whether Rossi steals the limelight or the two harmoniously confer
on developing the Ducati, the hard-working Hayden is determined to achieve
better results. "We took a big step from last year to this year, and I would
hope to be able to do the same next year."
If Nicky Hayden can beat the heat and meet the expectations by
taking a big step to the top of the podium here, not only will there be a lot
bet Indianapolis will become his favorite track.
for Red Bull?
The 2010 Red Bull Indianapolis GP kicks off with practice
on Friday, Aug. 27, followed by Saturday qualifying and the race on Sunday,
Aug. 29, rain or shine ... or heat. Heating up the track is action from MotoGP, Moto2 and the 125cc class bikes.
MotoGP is the premier class of GP motorcycle road racing, governed by the Road Racing World Championship Grand
Prix, which also features 125cc and Moto2 600cc classes. Grand Prix motorcycles
are purpose-built racing prototypes with the current maximum engine
displacement capacity of 800cc capable of producing speeds in
excess of 200 mph. Teams compete in events around the world.
When it comes to MotoGP, the chase is on. Jorge Lorenzo, Fiat Yamaha
rider, extended his lead in the World Championship standings to 77 with a win
at Brno in the Czech Republic, which made him just the third rider in the
62-year history of Grand Prix motorcycle racing to finish either first or
second in the first 10 races of a season. It's his championship to lose. He has not qualified outside of the top three or
finished lower than second.
Pedrosa, riding for Repsol Honda, matched Lorenzo's two wins in the first half
of the season, but, as he demonstrated at Brno, inconsistency has offset the
advantage of his remarkably long-lived Honda engine, relegating him to
second-place. Pedrosa's teammate, fourth-place Andrea Dovizioso is likely to
suffer the same engine pangs.
crash at the season opener in Qatar started Ducati rider Casey Stoner's year
off with a thud, but the Aussie has climbed onto the podium five times this
season. A third place at Brno boosted him to third in the championship. Working
with teammate Nicky Hayden to improve the bike's starts off the grid, Stoner is
gaining momentum as the season proceeds.
doctor is in the house. Valentino Rossi returned just six weeks after a leg
injury following a horrendous crash at the Italian Grand Prix in April.
Finishing fourth at Sachsenring, he just missed out on a podium, but he got it
at Laguna Seca. Unfortunately, the Fiat Yamaha rider struggled to a fifth place
finish at Brno. However, the nine-time World Champion can never be counted out.
in points behind Rossi is Ducati's Nicky Hayden, whose determination and
dedication will be bolstered by the support of family and friends at his home
Ben Spies, riding for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, is in a serious battle for Rookie
of the Year with Marco Simoncelli, with satellite
team San Carlo Honda
Gresini. Clinically methodical as he learns each new track, Spies has turned
in some astounding performances, such as starting from the front row in Brno.
Consistent strong finishes have placed him seventh in the points standings.
satellite team rider, Randy de Puniet, made his comeback at Brno. The French
LCR Honda rider suffered multiple fractures of his left leg in a crash at the
German race at Sachenring. After a private test in the south of France, he
declared himself ready to race and eager to make up points.
out the Top 10 are San
Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Melandri and Colin Edwards, riding for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Melandri is still recovering from a shoulder injury
suffered at Assen, although a new electronics package for his Honda should make
him feel better. Improvements to the Yamaha helped turn around Texan Edwards'
season, although he hopes to be fighting closer to the front than his seventh
place at Brno.
Friday, Aug 27: gates open at 8
Pit Walkabout at 9
Practice at 12:40
Practice at 1:55
Practice at 3:10
Saturday, Aug 28: gates open at 7
Practice at 9
Practice at 9:55
Practice at 11:10
Qualifying at 1
Qualifying at 1:55
Qualifying at 3:10
Sunday, Aug 29: gates open at 7
Race at noon
Race at 1:15
MotoGP Race at
Order online at www.imstix.com
By phone: (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the