The Kentucky Kid – Nicky Hayden – who died in 2017 in a road biking accident – will be honored by the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America as one of its class of 2021 inductees. The late, former MotoGP world champion is already a member of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame since 2018. This new honor is for Motorsports as a whole in America.
As one of five born into the Hayden family in Owensboro, Kentucky, Hayden started his career on dirt tracks. He blazed a trail through the AMA series, winning the Supersport championship in 1999 and clinching the Superbike title in 2002, becoming the youngest winner of the series.
He moved to MotoGP in 2003 as team-mate to Valentino Rossi. It would be two years before he scored his first win at Laguna Seca in 2005, but the following season was his year to shine.
In one of MotoGP’s most dramatic championship battles, a consistent Hayden – who only won two races compared to Rossi’s five wins, but retired only once in a crash-strewn season for the Italian. His consistency paid off and he beat Rossi by five points in a Valencia finale in which his rival crashed. The images of Hayden, his face dripping with tears, as he waves the Star Spangled Banner on his cool-down lap are some of motorcycle racing’s most memorable images. RIP Nicky.