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Hayden looks back at 2002 Daytona 200 win

Hayden's Daytona 200 win a dream come true. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 19, 2003) -- Last March, Nicky Hayden turned Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course into his personal playground. Hayden, riding the No. 69 American Honda...

Hayden's Daytona 200 win a dream come true.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., (Feb. 19, 2003) -- Last March, Nicky Hayden turned Daytona International Speedway's 3.56-mile road course into his personal playground.

Hayden, riding the No. 69 American Honda RC51, held off an early challenge from Kurtis Roberts and dominated the 61st Daytona 200 By Arai pulling off an 18.225-second victory.

For Hayden, it was only his third start in the prestigious motorcycle race and at the age of 20, he became the youngest winner of the race since 1976.

"It was huge to be honest with you," said Hayden when he visited the Speedway last August for a Dunlop tire test. "Being an American kid, this was the race we grew up hearing about. This was the one you use to lay in bed and think about."

Hayden won't be defending his Daytona 200 By Arai title after opting to compete overseas for Honda in 2003. But he looks back at his Daytona 200 victory as the spark that led to him to his first AMA U.S. Superbike championship.

"I felt like when we left here we were really in the position," Hayden said. "We were setting the tone. We were the people to beat for the rest of the year. Mat (Mladin) had trouble. He had been the guy, but he didn't have a good weekend. It established us as the people to beat."

Hayden established himself as one of the pre-race favorites during the qualifying session when he blistered a record lap of 1:47.174 (119.581 mph) and captured the pole and the Rolex watch.

Of course, Hayden wanted to post an even faster lap. He ducked into the pits, put on some fresh tires and soared back onto the track only to high side entering the chicane.

He was uninjured, but the incident put a damper on his day.

"The guy (EMT) asked me what day it was and I told him, 'Up to now it was the best day of my life,' " Hayden said at the time of the accident.

Looking back at the accident, Hayden said the worse thing was that he lost his primary motorcycle for the weekend.

"At first I was pretty lucky to be OK," Hayden said. "I hit the ground pretty hard. The next day, I didn't really get much warm up. The first practice was pretty much a throw way. I didn't feel good at all. But after that, I settled down and felt a lot better. It pretty much eliminated one of our bikes."

Rounding out the podium was Yoshimura Suzuki's Jamie Hacking and Yamaha's Anthony Gobert. Hacking nipped Gobert at the start/finish line for second. With his win in 2002, Hayden earned Honda's eighth Daytona 200 victory and its first since 1996. Hayden also became the first American to win the Daytona 200 since Scott Russell in 1998.

What will happen at this year's Daytona 200 By Arai on March? How will the Bostrom brothers fare? Will Mat Mladin return to his glory with a third Daytona 200 win? Can Miguel Duhamel win a fourth Daytona 200? Or can Kurtis Roberts tame Daytona for his first triumph?

To purchase tickets for any of the Daytona 200 Week events, go online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call the Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.

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Series AMA
Drivers Anthony Gobert , Kurtis Roberts , Nicky Hayden , Miguel Duhamel , Jamie Hacking , Scott Russell