MotoGP in Austin, Texas for the Americas GP will notice a giant “69” at the base of the iconic COTA tower, as the turn at the bottom of the mound has been renamed “Hayden Hill” in commemoration of the late American racer, Nicky Hayden.
Turn 18 is a fast right-hander, in a triple-corner complex of turns, which is known both for its speed and its rear-wheel slides. The first corner of the Circuit of the Americas to be given a proper name, it is a fitting tribute for the former MotoGP World Champion.
The MotoGP paddock this weekend has seen no shortage of tributes to the Kentucky Kid, including Ducati displaying Hayden’s Desmosedici GP race bike in the paddock area. He is surely missed by all.
— Circuit of The Americas (@COTA) April 20, 2018
Taken from his family, friends, and fans at the age of 35, Hayden passed away after a bicycling accident near the Misano World Circuit on the Adriatic Coast in Italy.
One of the most popular and hard-working riders in any paddock, Hayden was the 2002 AMA Pro Superbike Champion, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, and finished 5th in the 2016 World Superbike Championship. In 2015, he was named a MotoGP Legend – just one of his many accolades.
During his own induction as a MotoGP Legend this race weekend, MotoGP star Randy Mamola recognized his fellow American, wishing that Nicky Hayden was still here to be racing motorcycles, and that the Kentucky Kid was an example of how a rider should comport theselves both on and off the track.
Always acting the champion, the most notable thing about Nicky Hayden from a journalist’s point-of-view was his undying positivity, even on the most trying of days.
A day’s session could go sideways for Nicky – because of something outside his control or at the fault of one of his teammates – but Hayden would never complain afterwards and remain optimistic about the next day’s events.
A nod to the ever-unpredictable nature of motorcycle racing, one of Hayden’s more favorite quips is that no one knew what would happen on race day, which is why they always gridded up to race.
Those actions, and those words, seem hyper-relevant to this weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas.