SONOMA, Calif. (April 25, 2001) Â¯ Nicky Hayden has come a long way since he joined the American Motorcyclist Association three years ago as a young 16-year-old high school sophomore from Owensboro, Ken. He thrilled the crowd at Sears Point ...
SONOMA, Calif. (April 25, 2001) ¯ Nicky Hayden has come a long way since he joined the American Motorcyclist Association three years ago as a young 16-year-old high school sophomore from Owensboro, Ken.
He thrilled the crowd at Sears Point Raceway in 1999 when he took the checkered flag in the Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport main event. The victory was a premonition of things to come for Hayden, who went on to capture the 600 SuperSport championship, his first in the AMA.
Hayden continued his development last season, coming within six heartbreaking points of winning the U.S. Chevy Trucks Superbike Championship. Now a savvy veteran at just 19, Hayden hopes to take a final step up the ladder in 2001 by winning the Superbike title, and it starts at the AMA Superbike Challenge at Sears Point Raceway, May 4-6.
"One of the biggest advantages for me is that racing came pretty naturally," Hayden says. "It's something that I've worked pretty hard at. Even though I'm young, I've been racing a long time."
Hayden fought like a veteran aboard Honda's new 170-bhp RC51 V-twin last year, winning four races and finishing on the podium in another five. And he almost won AMA road racing's most prestigious event, the Daytona 200, finishing second by mere inches. It was an epic performance for a young rookie. He eventually fell in the points chase to two-time U.S. Chevy Trucks Superbike champion Mat Mladin (Suzuki).
Hayden certainly is still young, but he's not inexperienced. The whole Hayden family has ridden motorcycles at one time or another, including Nicky's two brothers, who also compete in AMA road racing nationals, and two sisters. His father was a dirt tracker for 20 years, and his mother rode the Powder Puff class for five years.
"I've been riding motorcycles for as long as I can remember, " Hayden said. "When I was little, we went to the race track like other kids went to the park."
In addition to his incredible speed on the track, there are two things you notice when you talk to Hayden: maturity and manners. The first quality is evident in his assessment of his performance in the Superbike class last year.
"I was pretty happy with last year," he said. "I really hoped to win the Superbike championship, but, you know, I was pretty thankful to have a good year, a safe year, and I really enjoyed it."
Hayden not only wants to enjoy the 2001 season, but he wants the championship. Last year was his first full season aboard a Superbike, and he learned quite a bit.
"One of the biggest things I've got to improve on is throttle control. That comes with experience. One of my biggest problems is just spinning the tire too much," he said. "A lot of times it helps you, but I think I get to a point where I do it too much and I'm not going forward. I think that's going to be the big thing to get me to the next level--to smooth out and learn to get the power to the ground a little more."
Hayden will team with Miguel Duhamel and Kurtis Roberts to give Honda a pretty powerful team for 2001.
"My number one goal is to win the Superbike title," he said. "I just want to do everything possible to make that dream come true. And if I can concentrate 100-percent on that, it may help us out, and we definitely need any edge we can get."
Nicky Hayden has the tools, in his RC51 and his team, and he has the talent by the bucket-loads. Look for him to set the Superbike class alight in 2001.