Nicky Hayden: More Tributes And Memories From People Whose Lives Were Touched By The Kentucky Kid (Third Update)

Nicky Hayden: More Tributes And Memories From People Whose Lives Were Touched By The Kentucky Kid (Third Update)

© 2017, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

By Chip Spalding:

Nicky Hayden was the best of us. Nick was World Champ. Nick was a factory rider. Nick won championships, races and scored podiums. Nick was the best American rider of my generation. But, that is not why Nicky Hayden was the best of us.

Nicky Hayden was the best of American Motorcycle Racing because he represented everything good about America and he represented the best of our tight little community. Positivity. Determination. Hard Work. Honesty. Family. Talent. Grace. Compassion. Humility. Team Work. Loyalty. Honor.

Nicky Hayden was the American dream come true. He proved that if you had enough talent and put in a lot of hard work….with the help of the squirrel, you can conquer the world.

Thank you, Nicky.

God please be with Earl, Rose, Tommy, Kathleen, Jenny, and Roger Hayden. When you need us, we got your back.

By Rick Muhr:

In 2001, I attended the Grand National Flat Track race in Lima, Ohio. There was a young 19-year-old kid on a Honda wreaking havoc on the field but DNF’d unfortunately. He was sitting dejectedly on the tailgate of his truck all by himself. I went over to express how impressive his riding was that evening. He was so humble and thanked me. He introduced himself as Nicky Hayden. #R.I.P..NICKY#69

By Rick Williams:

In the summer of 1991 I did my first-ever road race, a YSR50 endurance race at Oak Hill Raceway in Henderson, Texas, with the Central Road Racing Club (CRRC, later renamed as CMRA). Since it was a 2-hour endurance race with two riders per team, there was plenty of time to stand around near pit lane and talk to the other racers and their supporters as the bikes were on track. I struck up a conversation with a guy who said he’d gotten off work on Friday in Kentucky then drove all night to Texas so his two kids could race. I looked at him like he was crazy….drive all night after work? When was this guy planning to sleep?

That guy’s two kids kept passing me in the race, to my chagrin. Wow, they were fast. The youngest was 3 feet tall and I couldn’t believe he was kicking my butt. A YSR50 is a small motorcycle, yet still it dwarfed its 10-year-old rider that day. The other kid was a bit taller and older so it didn’t sting so much to get lapped.

Later in the pit I saw the tiny kid as he took his helmet off, and he had the most blank, quiet look on his face. He wasn’t smiling, he wasn’t frowning, it was just a look of total focus. For some reason that determined look on his face stuck in my memory.

At that time I was in the Air Force, and not long after the race I received overseas orders so my racing dreams were put on hold after only one attempt. A couple years later while stationed in Europe, I kept reading the name “Hayden” as up-and-coming racers back in the American racing scene. The name sounded familiar so I dug up my CRRC racing newsletters from 1991 to look at race results. I realized Tommy and tiny Nicky were those same two kids that had been so blazingly fast in Texas. From that point on it was a joy to follow their careers as they won trophy after trophy, championship after championship.

I’ve always cheered for and felt linked to the Hayden clan because of that one humid Texas day where I fulfilled my dream of becoming a motorcycle racer, and by random chance was sharing the racetrack with two young racers who were on their way to becoming legends of the sport right in front of me. Actually three legends, because everybody knows Earl (Roger wasn’t racing that day in ’91).

The loss of Nicky hurts so much.

Sending much love to everyone in the Hayden family, with sincere condolences for their loss. 

By Ted Holman:

Back in about 2003 we were doing a Pridmore School at Sears that Nicky sat in on. Great kid, polite and just pleasant to be around. I had a RC51 and was doing my best to be a bother to almost everyone. Nicky borrowed Jeff German’s Supermotard prepped Kawasaki 450 and was out riding around when I caught up with him. I passed him on the chute from Turn 6 to 7 and watched him in my mirrors as I powered off. The session was flagged a lap later and we came in.

Feeling like I was all that and a bag of chips I walked up to Nicky and said, “I passed Nicky Hayden!” He turned slowly and after a second said quite clearly “You want to try that again?”

I think it was one of the few times I was at a loss for words other than “No, it is all good….” He gave me the gun slinger look, turned and walked away. I realized right there I had thrown a flag at the ultimate racer and was lucky to be standing in the pits instead of picking my bike out of the weeds out on the track. I always wanted to thank Nicky for not clocking me. I am sorry today for not taking the opportunity to do so then.

I lost my son David in 2001 at age 21. No one understands anything now, nothing has any sense, there is none. The thing friends and family can do is share his wonderful memories as the dust settles. His stories will keep him in all of our lives forever, remembered and loved. It is with an aching heart that I miss both our boys tonight. Goodspeed Nicky and God Bless.

By Joseph Archangel, 4th Grade, Mendel Elementary School, Yokota Air Base, Japan:

Dear Nicky Hayden’s Family,

I am Nicky Hayden’s #1 fan and I am so sorry for your loss. My mom said whenever I get sad I should write down my feelings. So I wanted to write you a letter. I wish I was there for his funeral. My parents have a lot of pictures of Nicky Hayden. My favorite picture of Nicky was when he was holding the American flag doing a pop-a-wheely because most racers don’t really do that and he reminds me of my dad who is in the military and also racers motorbikes.

Some days I tell myself I want to be like Nicky Hayden which I’m close to that goal because I’m kind of good at riding motorcycles. I have two motorcycles, one is a pocket bike and one is a dirt bike. My favorite is my pocket bike because I can do tricks on it and I can race it.

My dad raced before but he raced alone. He crashed his motorcycles a lot of times. One of the crashes was when he was riding his motorcycle on a mountain and then he flew off the mountain. I don’t know exactly how he fell because I wasn’t born yet when that happened. Another crash was when he was riding his bicycle and then he hits a dog. Next, my dad goes flying over the concrete and his face dragged across the surface and he lost half of his nose. I wouldn’t say his crashes were like Nicky’s crash, because I am so sad for Nicky Hayden’s loss. I wish Nicky was still alive, but like my dad I admire Nicky Hayden. He is someone I looked up to and admire.

My thoughts are with you!

By Kenny and Dana Kopecky:

Great memories of working at Willow as an announcer at AMA Nationals in 1998-1999-2000, including Nicky’s first National win as I recall. Even as a young man he had that courtesy, respect and smile that would remain with him. It was fun to meet him,and watch his ever progressing riding.

Getting to watch him ride the Honda Superbike in person at Willow, California Speedway and Laguna Seca, and loving to watch his smooth precision on the racetrack.

Such a fantastic motorcycle racer.

Loved watching the MotoGP series with Nicky in it, and we went absolutely wild cheering during that final round in ’06. SO awesome!

Went wild again last year watching him win a World Superbike race. “Our Champion” was still kicking ass!

Getting to meet Earl, Tommy and Roger Lee (when he was a tiny lad on a 125 out at Willow), all wonderful people. Our sincerest condolences to the Haydens, and with great memories of and respect to Nicky always.

He is one of our greatest American heroes in this sport. Forever.

By Chuck Nance:

Nicky Hayden never knew my name. We might have said “hello” but not much more. Certainly, the only instants that he focused on me were when he was lapping me on the tracks of CMRA. I never saw him in person after he turned Pro, but even when he was young we recognized his greatness. It’s hard to put into words but even then I felt a humble reverence for the Haydens.

Once, I was corner working in Turn Eight of the Texas World Speedway short course and Nicky was on his 125. As he transitioned from the right hand carousel to the off-camber left for Turn Nine, the bike got light and the front wheel came up at least three feet. The bike was completely crossed up, but he gracefully planted the wheel and made the corner with a perfect exit. I just stood there, dazed, at what I had witnessed.

Then one year during a National, CMRA had to run a second Lightweight GP event because many of our local riders were too young to participate in a race that paid prize money. Nicky won the “local” race, but his times beat the national winner’s by an embarrassing amount.

Though I had nothing to do with his greatness, watching his achievements from afar gave me an inexplicable sense of pride. So many of his fans never got to see Nicky in person, but somehow the world was better just knowing that he was in it living his life while giving to everyone a sense of what all of us could become. Thank you, Nicky, for your shining light.

By Jim Race:

I’ve listened back to all of my interviews with Nicky over the last day/night/day. It’s been awesome, if a bit wistful trying to choose my favorite. I found one that does capture, well … him. Nicky starts in at 17:10 and then again at 41:10 live from the circuit for the first Austin MotoGP race. I’m not as good with typed words as I am with spoken ones. For me, it’s just amazing to hear his voice again, just as I remember him. Humble, honest and amazing. My heart pours out for the family, Jackie and all of his teams and friends.

http://www.motopodcast.com/episode/episode-359-wel…

By Tom Saoca:

I bought a RC-51 in 2003. Nicky was my hero. I have his posters in my garage. I started racing in 2004 on a RC51. I was 46 years old. Nicky inspired me to be the best I could be. I qualified for every race I entered in AMA Superstock 2007 for ESP at 49 years old. Nicky will leave a hole in this sport I love and have a passion for. Godspeed Nicky.

By Brian Petersen:

 I’m one of countless people who Nicky wouldn’t know, but who nevertheless have fond memories of our encounter.

I was on track with him once upon a time, would have been 1993 or 1994 (so he was 12 or 13 years old), in a regional race at Putnam Park, together with brother Tommy (and Earl with the cube van). He was on a Honda RS125 GP bike at the time, and was much, much faster than anyone else there. We knew back then that he was destined for greatness, and he exceeded every expectation. His down-to-earth nature and humility and fabulous attitude towards others are what made him such a great person.

And to have it all end because of a bicycle crash.

Do what you want with your life, while you still can.

Rest in peace, Nicky Hayden. The world is a poorer place without you.

By Hansel Yune:

I never knew Nicky Hayden personally. This letter will probably never get published but just writing it, helps me deal with my sadness a bit.

I’m just a loyal fan like many of us. I did get to meet him at a southern California Ducati dealer function just after he signed with Ducati for 2009. As you already know, he was extremely gracious with everyone, answering questions, telling a few stories, signing autographs, late into the night.

However, I just wanted to refer back to 2006. My wife was pregnant with our first child. When we found out it would be a boy, obviously we had to decide on a name. First name that came out of my mouth, and I remember it like it was yesterday, “Nicky”. “For Nicky Hayden”, I explained to my wife. Being the supportive partner I married her for, she simply said “OK, fine.”

Fast forward to Sunday, October 29, 2006. My wife and I watch the events unfold that led to Nicky’s championship title. Baby Nicholas, born October 10, trying to nap in the bedroom. Not!!!

That race, wow, cheering, stressing, screaming, crying, screaming, more cheering, more screaming, more crying. Watching Nicky celebrating, Earl and Rose, fingers x’d, omg, what a memory.

Capped by my wife looking over at me at some point, “now I know why you chose the name “Nicky”.

We will miss you Nicky Hayden! Big hole to fill in my daily life. No more checking on your wbsk results, wondering if you’ll jump from Honda back to the Ducati, wondering if you’ll come race MotoAmerica…

By Kent Stipp:

Thank you for giving us this opportunity.

Like most of the world, my thoughts and prayers and condolences go out to his fiancée Jackie and the whole Hayden family. Having experienced close family loss myself it is really hard to put those thoughts into words but you have my prayers and condolences and my thoughts will always be with you.

I can still remember the first time I met Nicky. It was the early 1990s and it was at Pocono international Speedway for a WERA race weekend. It was a Saturday and it was practice day and as it happened he and I were in the same practice group out on the track I happen to break a throttle cable and was coming in and he had run out of gas on his bike, or at least I believe that’s what the issue was. I remember helping push his bike over to his pit area because he was too short to touch the ground on the bike. And I remember watching him the rest of the weekend knowing there is something special about him.

Over the years as my racing days and did more or less and his were starting I watched his career blossom and explode. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him on several occasions at races in the last 2 times I saw Nicky were in Japan. Once with MotoGP and we got to chat in length and when he returned to Suzuka for the eight hour I had an opportunity to talk with him over the weekend once again. It was always great talking with him always had a smile and a handshake and kind things to say. Little did I know that was the last time I was actually going to get to see and talk with him, those memories are what will stick with me forever. It was a pleasure having been able to meet speak and talk with him on so many occasions.

Just like the rest of the racing communities and the world we wish you Godspeed #69.

By David Cannon:

It was spring 1993, I heard there was a race weekend at the local race track in my hometown of St.Louis, Gateway International Raceway. I got on my 1991 FZR 600 and rolled over to the track to check it out. I sat at the end of the straightaway coming off of Turn 4 I heard the bikes start off the finish line and when they came around that corner oh my gosh was it thrilling! Instantly I told myself “I’m doing this”! 

I was 19 years old, after the races were over I rushed home to tell my mom. I told her this is what I was going to do and of course she completely objected. Several weeks later I was in Hallett Oklahoma at Rider school! It was an MCRA event & my first road racing experience. I was instantly hooked at the age of 19 I said this is what I’m going to do with the rest of my life I’m going to become a pro racer! 

After that weekend I raced several venues at Putnam and Gateway. Then there was a WERA event at Gateway. I will never forget it like it was yesterday we pulled in to the pits to find a place to set up and I noticed this box fan parked in the grass it had murals painted on the side of kids on flat track dirt bikes with the names Nicky and Tommy on it. I remember asking a friend in the pits what’s up with that truck? He replied that’s the Hayden Clan that’s the guy that brings his kids to the track. And oh yeah they’re really fast! 

It wasn’t until September when I got an invitation in the mail to the Grand National Finals in Atlanta. I remember GNF in 1993 so vividly pulling up the big rigs the big teams the flashing colors the guys in there professional team leathers. But what stood out more to me than anything that weekend where the Hayden kids on their GP bikes, they were fast. I just couldn’t get over how fast these kids were. 

The next few years went by and at that age I was totally consumed with becoming a professional racer myself. Finances fell short in 1996 and I didn’t race that year with the anticipation of making a comeback in 1997. What I will never forget was either December or January of 97 when I got my copy of my Roadracing World magazine, I discovered that Tommy Hayden signed a contract to Race Pro superbike for Muzzy Kawasaki! To say the least wow was I pumped! A young man that I knew from Club racing was going pro! 

I think that’s when it all started for me as the years went by I slowly realized I wasn’t coming back to racing and I started moving into the business world. Very shortly after Nicky Hayden’s name came up in AMA Superbike racing and I was so jacked! I so badly wanted to become a professional racer and was obvious I wasn’t going to but these young guys were! 

From that point on I held on to every race to every lap to every victory. I so badly wanted to be a pro and didn’t make it and these guys did, I was living vicariously through guys like Josh Hayes Tommy Hayden Nicky Hayden Roger Hayden. But within time Nicky turned out to be my absolute favorite I can’t explain the emotions of how elated I was when he became the 2002 AMA champion! I was so proud of him but yet hadn’t spoken to him since he was 12. 

Fast-forward to 2006, what an unbelievable season for a fan like me, after a small handful of races Nicky had the championship lead! I could not believe it here was this kid that I was Club racing with alongside was in the MotoGP points lead! Every single race weekend he would continue to hold on to his points lead and a lot of weekends would grow it. My emotions were running High! At the Portuguese race weekend his teammate accidentally took him out I was absolutely crushed. So crushed that a man in his early 30s called his mother and broke down sobbing, I called my mom balling he had gotten so close. 

The Valencia race I set to record on my DVR but I didn’t want to watch it I was so heartbroken. I went deer hunting in Northern Missouri that day. I’ll never forget sitting in my tree stand & the only thing I could think about was Nicky, the championship, how close he had gotten, and then there was this little voice in the back of my head that said what if, what if! And then thought to myself there is absolutely no way the doctor is going to make a mistake. I got home that night got settled in and the very last thing I did was turn on the race. With massive disappointment in my heart I began to watch. Lap 5 came very quickly #46 dropped his bike! 

IT INSTANTLY HIT ME!!! NICKY WAS GOING TO BE WORLD CHAMP!!!!!!! 

I could not believe it! I remember the emotions came over me I remember running in circles in my living room with the tears running down my face and screaming at the top of my lungs! Nicky is the world champion! I woke every single person up in my house that night, I had some very Choice words directed to me from somebody at the top of the stairs, and I did not care! My guy Nicky Hayden was world champion!!! I did not even go pro, Nicky not only went pro he did it big! Not only did he become a world champion he became a racing Legend and a racing icon! 

There are so many days I daydreamed about accomplishing these things. And here this kid was that I raced in club races with was accomplishing all these things!!! I felt so unbelievably connected to Nicky I watched his every move every race every lap. I was so unbelievably excited for him and his success! Nicky was different, most athletes when they obtain that level get so cocky and arrogant, not Nicky he was special. He was different. He became the Forefront of racing for me. Most of Europe thinks Valentino Rossi is MotoGP. For me and my world Nicky Hayden was motorcycle road racing period! If somebody said the word “motorcycle racing” the first image in my mind is the American flag draped over that 69. Nicky Hayden was a name mentioned weekly in my household for years. He was my guy he was the most important thing to me in the motorcycle racing world. 

When he moved on to world superbike I swore to all my friends he was going to be the 2016 World Superbike Champion. I was so pumped the emotions from 2006 were coming back to me! I don’t have a single doubt in my veins that had he had more competitive equipment Nicky Hayden would have been the world superbike champion in 2016. This year unfortunately was disappointment with the new equipment, I always knew though that Nicky had the talent to be the best of the best. 

Last week somebody text me the news I rushed to the internet to see if it was a hoax. My absolute worst nightmare had come true. For 5 days I prayed so hard for a miracle. Then I saw that Nicky wasn’t with us anymore. I cried at the Portuguese race I cried when he won the World Championship you can probably imagine what the last week has been for me. I am far beyond heartbroken.. I’m absolutely shattered. I just cannot believe it. I can’t imagine what the entire Hayden Clan are going through. Earl, Rose, Tommy, Roger the sisters & family.His fiance Jackie. Wow. not to mention all the other Legions of race fans that feel the same way I do what an unbelievable loss. 

I am absolutely grateful for the Memories! It made my day when I discovered this post and read other people’s stories to see how Nicky has affected other people’s lives. But I’ll be very candid it was the post with the pastor talking about Nicky coming to Chapel nothing is more important to me learning that Nicky was a born again Christian, they don’t talk about that stuff in social media. At the end of the day absolutely nothing else matters more. Greg White put it so well there’s a giant hole in my heart that only time will heal but there’s always going to be a whole in my heart for Nicky. Thank you Nicky thank you for the times thank you for the emotions thank you for being you Godspeed #69

By John Nielsen:

I never met Nicky Hayden but I am a fan of his. It was a privilege to watch Nicky progress from flat track to road racing and then to the pinnacle of the sport the Grand Prix and finally to World Superbike. In all the interviews Nicky gave I never heard an excuse and he had reasons to at times. I watched Nicky grow up and change from awkward to polished. Then there was that smile, that luminous smile, the smile that was contagious. Nicky would smile from the podium or in an interview and I would smile back from the couch. The emotion Nicky demonstrated after winning the Championship in 2006 was raw and my heart leapt with joy at his accomplishment. He was one of us that went to Europe and became a champion. The sudden passing of such a life force, someone I have admired for years has left a hole in my soul. I want the Hayden family and his fiancé to know that I loved Nicky too and I can’t imagine the grief you are feeling now. You should know that Nicky by being Nicky has enriched this old man’s life.

By MSgt Chris Bower:

I write this with deep sadness, Monday May 22nd is a day I will never forget and a hole has been left in my heart and the hearts of many other fans, racers, friends, and family of Nicky Hayden. First of all thank you to RoadRacing World staff and Mr. John Ulrich for providing a platform for all mourning to express thoughts and feelings and pay tribute to Nicky. It has made this tragedy and loss of one of the greats easier to deal with.

I did not know Nicky personally but had the opportunity to meet him several times at Mid Ohio and Indianapolis. My thoughts mimic those of many that have written to pay tribute and I hold those memories of those days close to my heart. I have served this country for the last 17 years in the United States Air Force and am thanked daily for my service to this country. Today I would like to say thank you to Nicky Hayden for his service to this country and for displaying the red white and blue on the world stage of motorcycle racing so proudly. You are a true patriot sir and I thank you for that. Your talents, drive, dedication, hardwork, and character traits were one in a million.

To Nicky’s family, fiancé, and friends my thoughts and prayers are with you. God Speed Nicky and Rest in Peace. Thank you for the memories and you will be deeply missed.

By Kari Evans Dean:

Heartbroken doesn’t begin to explain how I am feeling today. When you grow up at the racetrack, you are blessed with a second family. I love my race family dearly. I haven’t been to a race in nearly 11 yrs, but that doesn’t change anything. From the time I was 7 I spent as much time with my race family as I did with my biological family. I was lucky to have the Hayden family as part of my race family. I grew up with them. Today my heart breaks for them. My heart breaks for my entire racing family. Nicky was special. Just look through all of the things that have been said about him. He touched so many people. He will be greatly missed. Earl, Rose, Jenny, Tommy, Roger and Kathleen, you are in my prayers. I am so sorry.

To everyone else, go call that old friend you haven’t talked to in a while, you never know when you won’t have another chance

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