Like many top-level athletes, some motorcycle racers are known to have Attitude with a capital A. But apparently no one has told Team Honda’s Nicky Hayden about this. Hayden, who won the AMA 600 SuperSport championship in 1999 at the tender age of 17 on his Erion Racing CBR600F4, liberally sprinkles his conversations with "Yes, sir," or "No, sir," evincing Old South manners that are a credit to his upbringing. He still lives at home in Owensboro, Kentucky, with his parents and brothers and sisters, and he’s looking forward to graduating this year from the Catholic high school he’s attending.

On the race track, though, Hayden shows a level of experience and ferocity that belie his age and public demeanor. His 1999 record speaks for itself: Riding for the Honda-supported Erion Racing Team, he took seven victories in the Formula Xtreme class aboard the team’s 190-horsepower CBR900RR, coming second in points to his teammate Kurtis Roberts. In 600 SuperSport, Hayden won five races, more than anyone else in the class, and took the championship in his first season on a Honda. Hayden also rode a Honda Superbike three times in 1999, finishing third at the last race of the season, serving notice that has what it takes to run with the best.

In an era when dysfunctional families are more the rule than the exception, the saga of the Hayden clan is one of refreshing normalcy. Family life is centered around-and was anchored by-motorcycling. "I’ve been riding motorcycles for as long as I can remember," Hayden says in his Kentucky drawl. "When I was little, we went to the race track like other kids went to the park."

His earliest memories are of riding motorcycles at home in Owensboro at the age of 3. He began racing in a 50cc dirt track series when he was 5, and soon after won his first championship. "I raced a lot of different kinds of bikes," he says. "I’ve won titles on 60s, 80s, 125s-just about everything." In fact, the entire Hayden family rode motorcycles at one time or another, including Nicky’s two brothers and two sisters; his mother, who rode the Powder Puff class for five years; and his father, Earl, a dirt track racer for 20 years. Nicky’s even using his father’s number, 69, on his Superbike for 2000. "I ran number 69 because it read the same upside-down, and I was upside-down a lot," says Hayden senior.

His son, though, has shown far more restraint, culminating in an incredible championship-winning season last year. For 2000, Nicky Hayden has made the big jump to full factory sponsorship with Team Honda. How’s it feel for an 18-year-old to be on the sport’s mightiest road racing team? "It feels really good, you know?" he says. "It’s something that I’ve been working hard for, and to finally get on a full factory team is really a dream come true for me."

This season the dream includes defending his 600 SuperSport title on board a CBR600F4 again, and racing full-time in the Superbike class on Honda’s stunning new RC51 V-twin. "It’s really easy to ride, and really easy to flick around," Hayden says of the RC51. "It’s got a lot more torque off the bottom than the RC45, and I think the twin is going to be a lot easier on the tires, and better over a whole race."

Of the CBR600F4 he says, "The technicians have done a really good job and got us a little more power. I’m more comfortable on it this year than last. Last year, with winning the championship, I gained a lot of confidence, and hopefully I can carry that confidence into the 2000 season. And working with my new mechanics, Merlyn Plumlee, Dan Fahey and Davy Jones, has been really good. Those guys work really hard, and anything I need to go faster, they’re right there behind me 110 percent."

Like many top-ranked racers, Hayden rides dirt track-well enough, in fact, to win the AMA Grand National Rookie of the Year award in 1999, finishing ninth in the series while competing in only 12 of the 18 rounds. What’s he learn from dirt track racing that carries over to his speed on the pavement? "I’d say the biggest thing is throttle control," he says. "That’s one thing that’s true with both dirt track and road racing. And that helps me a lot. Dirt track really helped me get to where I’m at with my road racing today. Without dirt track, I don’t think I would have been able to get here as fast. It teaches you to be comfortable with the bike when it’s moving around. It keeps me sharp."

For 2000, Hayden’s goals are crystal-clear-and leavened with a realism unexpected from a teen-ager. "My goal is to defend my title," he says. "And I know it’s not going to be any easier this year than last year. Everybody’s going to be gunning for me. That’s just going to give me the motivation to work even harder. With the Superbike, I’m kind of realistic on what my goals are going to be, because I know the first year there’s going to be some bad days," he says, laughing. "It’s not going to be easy."

That’s precisely the kind of attitude that ensures Nicky Hayden will go far in the sport. He’s young, fast, immensely talented, and he has an amazingly mature view of where he’s headed and what it will take to get there. He’s also one of the most approachable and likable racers you’ll ever meet. Nicky Hayden is proof that nice guys finish first.



• AMA 600 SuperSport Champion

• 2nd AMA Formula Xtreme

• AMA Grand National Dirt Track Rookie of the Year

• AMA Pro Athlete of the Year 1998

• 4th AMA 600 SuperSport

• 4th AMA 750 SuperSport

Born: July 30, 1981 Owensboro, Kentucky

Residence: Owensboro, Kentucky

National #s: 1 (AMA 600 SuperSport), 69 (AMA Superbike)

Began riding: 1984, age 3

First race: 1986, age 5

Training: Dirt bike riding, weight lifting, aerobics

Hobbies: Dirt bike riding, basketball, mountain biking

Height: 5′ 7"

Weight: 140 lb.

Marital status: Single

Current race bikes: Honda RC51, Honda CBR600F4

Mechanics: Merlyn Plumlee, Daniel Fahie, David Jones

Crew Chief: Ray Plumb

Posted by cycle.news on 2015-12-04 16:24:09

Tagged: , Team Honda , Team Honda 2000 , Honda Racing , factory Honda , 2000 , Honda , Nicky Hayden , Honda Racing – 2000 , Press Kit Photo , motorcycle racing

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