The Strange Case Of Roger Hayden And Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki

The Strange Case Of Roger Hayden And Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki

© 2009, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By David Swarts.

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Rumor and controversy are swirling around 2007 AMA Supersport Champion Roger Hayden even though the 25-year-old rider has yet to turn a wheel at an AMA event in 2009. Less than one week before the 2009 AMA season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. issued a press release announcing that Hayden would not be racing in the 68th Daytona 200 because he had been “granted a leave of absence” and “the leave is because of a personal problem.” Leandro Mercado, a 17-year-old former Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup competitor, was drafted into service to race Hayden’s #95 ZX-6R in the Daytona 200. The deal was so last-minute that Mercado signed his Kawasaki contract in Daytona and had to wear a set of leathers borrowed from Jamie Hacking. Today it was confirmed that Hayden will also sit out Round Two of the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Championship Presented by AMSOIL, scheduled for March 20-22 at Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana, California, and that Mercado will once again ride in his place. Kawasaki’s strangely-worded press release and Hayden’s silence fueled a lot of speculation at Daytona, but this time around more information is coming out and that information is pointing to some sort of dispute between Hayden and Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., to which Hayden is contracted through the 2009 season. “Unfortunately, I’m in the dark as much as anybody else,” said Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Team Owner Richard Stanboli when contacted by Roadracingworld.com Tuesday morning. “I don’t know the situation, honestly. I just see all the crap on the Internet. All I know is Kawasaki told me, ‘OK, he’s [Hayden] not racing at Fontana, so we’re going to put Mercado on his bike, again.’ That’s what I know for sure. I don’t know anything about [Road] Atlanta yet.” Stanboli said he was informed about the move via an e-mail from Kawasaki Road Race Manager Michael Preston. Roadracingworld.com attempted to contact Preston, but he did not immediately return messages left on his office and cell phone voice mails. Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. Director of Marketing Bruce Stjernstrom, who oversees the racing department, also did not return a voice mail message left seeking comment. “It would have been nice if they had told us that,” a known reliable source close to Hayden told Roadracingworld.com Tuesday. “We know from looking at a website that he’s not listed on an entry list by Kawasaki, so that would certainly lead us to conclude that they’re not going to let him race this weekend. However, from our perspective, Roger is ready, willing and able, and totally fit. He has no problems, and he wants to race. And if he’s not allowed to race by Kawasaki, you need to ask them why, because we don’t know. We’re very, very curious to see what they say, why they’re not letting Roger race when he is fit. “I want it clear to everyone. I saw their [Kawasaki’s] press release saying that he had a personal problem. He has no personal problems. He has no problems whatsoever. He is fit. He is ready. He is desiring to be out there. Like I said you have to ask Kawasaki to find out why they won’t let him [race].” The source went on to state that Hayden never requested a leave of absence. “They unilaterally granted him a leave of absence,” said the source, who has worked with Hayden since the start of his professional career. “In other words, that’s how they structured it. But once again, for Daytona, Roger was ready, willing, able, physically fit and ready to go.” The source requested that he not be named and roadracingworld.com granted his request because he has proven reliable and accurate over the course of a decade. With a lack of factual information released since Daytona, rumors about Hayden have run rampant, especially on the Internet. In fact, one anonymous poster on a popular Internet bulletin board posted unfounded accusations that Hayden was caught in an AMA anti-doping screening conducted at a team test held February 2-4 at Auto Club Speedway. Hayden rode at that test, his first time on a racebike since the end of his injury-plagued 2008 season, but that rumor is absolutely false. “The test at Fontana was not operated by AMA Pro Racing,” AMA Pro Racing President Roger Edmondson told Roadracingworld.com. “AMA Pro Racing had no formal involvement with the test at Fontana and no AMA Pro Racing substance abuse testing was conducted at the test.” Other speculation centers around Kawasaki’s relationship with Mercado, whose father may have bought out his Red Bull Rookies contract after being promised an Attack Kawasaki ride for his son prior to the company downsizing its 2009 road racing program. Until Kawasaki, Hayden or his management group make a definitive public statement for publication, this deal is likely to remain difficult to figure out. Stay tuned.

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