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Home Heroes: Nicky Hayden

Home Heroes:  Nicky Hayden

For the second time this season Hayden will race on home soil, but the Indianapolis round is his true home.

2006 saw Nicky Hayden crowned as the MotoGP™ World Champion, continuing a long line of American champions in the 500cc class: Kenny Roberts Sr., Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and Kenny Roberts Jnr. But since 2006 no American has been able to lift the crown, the MotoGP™ championship dominated by flying Spanish and Italian riders.

The ‘Kentucky Kid’ joined the World Championship in 2003, moving from the American domestic series as Superbike Champion, landing directly on the Repsol Honda factory machine. Claiming two podiums in his debut year and finishing fifth overall, the young American impressed many in the paddock and would stay with Repsol Honda for several years.

It was not until 2005 that Hayden would claim his first victory as the MotoGP™ paddock returned to his homeland of America at the famous Laguna Seca track. A home crowd would again spur Hayden to victory in 2006 at Laguna Seca as he went on to take his first World Championship, the last title won by an American in the premier class. Many have criticised Hayden for only winning twice on his way to the 2006 title, but at no point was the season ever easy for Hayden.

The journey to the title was hard and full of emotion, just when things looked to be going Hayden’s way the infamous Estoril round happened when the Kentucky Kid was taken out by Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa.

Now in 2015 Hayden is the sole representative from the United States in the World Championship, their domestic series recently restructured under the MotoAmerica banner after years of hardship. Hayden is confident that there will always be Americans battling it out, “I think it’s gonna take a bit, there will be a delay but to think there will never be Americans is ridiculous. Hopefully the MotoAmerica series can bring back strong Americans and push the riders against each other hard and raise their talent.”

After his championship year Hayden encountered several tough seasons as the Honda struggled against the Yamaha and Ducati efforts, Hayden achieving a smattering of third places in 2007. However in 2008 Hayden’s true home round would be introduced as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was added to the calendar, Indianapolis far closer to Hayden’s home in Owensboro, Kentucky. Despite the first visit to the legendary ‘Brickyard’ circuit being somewhat hampered by hurricane Ike, Hayden rallied in front of his home fans and finished a strong second behind Valentino Rossi in the beating rain.

In 2009 Nicky Hayden stepped away from Honda and began to race for the factory Ducati squad and brought a special stars and stripes themed livery to his home round of Indianapolis. Again Hayden finished on the podium. The home fans always seem to bring out the best in the Kentucky Kid and spur him on.

Unfortunately since 2009 times have grown increasingly difficult for Hayden as Ducati begun to struggle more and more. In 2012 Hayden suffered a massive highside at Turn 14, along with Casey Stoner and Ben Spies, and was forced to miss the race with a broken right hand. A return to Honda in 2014 was not the return to glory Hayden had hoped for as he battled with a wrist injury throughout the season, again forced to miss the Indianapolis GP.

The 2015 Indianapolis GP will be the first time the Kentucky Kid has raced on the revised track layout and surface of the Brickyard. Despite the hardships Hayden is eager: “Indy really is a special place with a lot of history. They made a lot of changes, I didn’t get to try them last year but the riders seem to enjoy them a lot. I look forward to trying it tomorrow.”

As always Nicky Hayden has produced a special helmet for his home event. This year’s version includes the quote “It can’t rain all the time,” reminding Hayden to remain positive despite the difficult races of late. Hayden has also included a tribute to Bernat Martinez and Dani Rivas, the two Spanish riders who sadly lost their lives during the MotoAmerica round at Laguna Seca a few weeks ago. If one thing is certain it’s that Hayden will put on a stellar performance for his home fans.

MotoGP, 2015, RED BULL INDIANAPOLIS GRAND PRIX, Nicky Hayden, Aspar MotoGP Team, #HomeHeroes

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