It was a somber occasion in Austin on Friday, as members of the grand prix paddock gathered in the press conference room to witness the announcement that the number 69 was going to be retired from use in the MotoGP Championship.
The event at the Hayden Hill later that day, just overlooking Turn 18 was a little bit more cheerful though, as friends, family, and well-wishers gathered for a photo around the emblazoned logo of the Kentucky Kid.
There was also the Repsol Honda RC211V race bike on display in the paddock – the machine that Hayden used to win the 2006 MotoGP Championship – along with no shortage of fans sporting Nicky’s apparel, number, and infectious smile.
However you spent the day at the Circuit of the Americas on Friday, thoughts of Nicky Hayden were surely nearby.
Once FIM President Jorge Viegas and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta finished the ceremony to retire Hayden’s number, Nicky’s older brother Tommy spoke for the family, with the following remarks:
“First of all I’d just like to thank everyone for joining us here, everyone who’s showed up to celebrate this special occasion with us.”
“For sure we’d like to thank Carmelo and all of Dorna for this event and for all their support pretty much since Nicky’s accident they’ve gone way out of their way in every way you can imagine. Nicky loved MotoGP and I think he loved it for a reason, because there are a lot of good people there – starting at the top, and we want to thank everyone for everything.”
“Nicky had a lot of success on track but I think we all agree he made just as big an impact off track. In everyone’s lives; those of his friends and family and all of his fans. That’s something that, as a family, we’re most proud of.”
“The number 69 is a special number in our family. Before my brothers and sisters were even born, my dad raced with that number and there were other family members even before us my dad helped and supported who always raced with the number 69.”
“My sister raced when she was younger, my brother Roger, myself, always raced with the number 69 throughout our childhood years and growing up racing. Nicky carried the number through his whole career, it’s very special and like I said it has a lot of meaning so to have it retired from MotoGP™, the pinnacle of the sport, as you can imagine…it means a lot to us.”
“So again I would just like to thank everyone for coming out, all your support and for helping us to keep Nicky’s legacy alive.”