Trackside Tuesday: That’s Show Biz Kid

07/23/2013 @ 9:40 pm, by Scott Jones45 COMMENTS


MotoGP is show business, and to contribute to the show riders must bring more to their teams than race results. Since 2009, few riders have done more for their teams and sponsors without winning a race than Nicky Hayden has done for Ducati.

For decades the mantra in pro racing has been “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday,” but Ducati has seen its North American market eclipse sales in Italy for the first time, even as they have not had a GP win since Casey Stoner left. There’s no empirical way to determine how much of this is due to Nicky Hayden riding for Ducati, but common sense says these are related. So Ducati’s decision to let The Kentucky Kid go must have been a difficult one.

None of the Ducati folks I talked to at Laguna Seca seemed keen to discuss the news, making me wonder if this decision had more to do with Audi’s new influence than existing Ducati management.

Fans did want to talk about it, however. Last week on the Photo.GP Facebook page, I asked those who follow my work there what they thought of Hayden moving on from Ducati. I naively expected 20-30 comments. As I’m writing this, there are 160 comments.

A few are simply anti-Ducati, a few others are critical of Hayden himself for not producing better results. But the great majority are there simply because the people who posted wanted to express their support for one of the most popular riders in the world.

MotoGP riders are respected for their abilities on track, if not for results, then at least because to get to that level of racing and then qualify for the grid is an accomplishment in itself. But as David Emmett pointed out in one of our discussions at the Sachsenring, while riders are generally respected, few riders are truly beloved.

No rider is more beloved than Rossi (and as a consequence none is more hated by those who resent his success and popularity). But Hayden is another of the rare personalities in MotoGP who manage to be both respected and beloved. His character, comprising full doses of heart, charm, and stoicism, lends great PR value to any brand associated with The Kentucky Kid.

As talented riders have come and gone at Ducati, each believing he could do what Casey Stoner did only to learn the sad truth, Hayden has remained since 2009 as the hard-working, brand-loyal, street-bike-selling spokesman — never complaining, never biting the hand that feeds him, and always giving 100% on a bike that can’t win without Stoner aboard.

Where will he land next season? Just about to turn 32, Hayden isn’t a prime candidate for teams hoping to discover the next Casey Stoner. But any team wanting to thrill their sponsors and increase their fan base would be wise to consider adding him to their roster.

Will MotoGP survive the loss of Nicky Hayden if he goes to another series? Of course. It has survived the loss of Casey Stoner. But it is also less of a show for the loss of the Australian champion. 2013 has shaped up to be a fantastic season with many compelling stories. But imagine what 2013 would be like with Stoner on the grid, too.

For the first time in years we’d have five riders who might win a given race. We might not be singing quite so loudly the praises of Mark Marquez, but imagine how loudly we would be singing if Marquez were getting the same results with Stoner as a competitor.

If Nicky Hayden is allowed to slip away from MotoGP, the series will be less compelling because that loss, just as whichever series picks him up will benefit from his involvement. At a time when MotoGP is struggling to grow its popularity, to let one of its most popular riders escape would be a huge mistake.

Scott Jones is a professional photographer who covers MotoGP and WSBK for racing industry clients as well as racing websites and publications in the U.S. and Europe. His online archive is available at Photo.GP, and you can find him on his blogTwitter, & Facebook.

All images posted, shared, or sent for editorial use or review are registered for full copyright protection at the Library of Congress.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • Ken C.

    Well said, Scott. Well said.

    I’m guessing there are plenty of teams clamoring for his services. He’ll be just fine wherever he ends up, and the team that gets him will be all the better for it.

    I know that I’ll watch whatever series he’s in just to see what he can do on a different bike, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

  • Hayden if he really wants to get back in the saddle has to ask him self the only question that matters – how far am I willing to go to win.

    He has talent but not the single minded focus to win it seems like.

    He needs to super valmorphanize from pretty boy floyd to the new dirtier and mean money mayweather and go nuts. I want to see speed or carnage trying. Next year at Laguna I wasnt to see him wheelie through the dirt next to Marquez going down the corkscrew.

    And when they interview him its time to drop the heehaw 69 jokes, no matter where the number came from it’s time to become the American Cyborg codenamed Schumacher.

  • Shawn

    Rossi’s results were comparable to Hayden’s when he rode for Ducati…

  • Phil

    Whatever he does he’ll shine even more at. Everyone does that leaves Ducati. And yes everyone will miss him.

  • Pablo

    The only reasons Stoner was able to shine with the Ducati was because he had tires tailor made for his bike, unlimited engines to break and the other brands were not as developed as they are today. If Ducati was so great, why did he leave when the rules changed ?? He was smart to make the jump in time. Nicky is a great rider who ruined his Moto GP career by being loyal to Ducati…

  • TexusTim

    maybe he will ride a honda in motogp or move to wsbk till 2015…..he has a few good years left and they should be spent on a competitive bike…he has that coming…work ethic like his even in motogp is not common

  • Jason

    He has kept pace with or outpaced his teammates on that bike. Andrea Dovisioso was on the podium on the tech 3 Yamaha yet runs right with Hayden on the Ducati. Hayden outpaced Rossi often on the Ducati and Rossi is now on a podium streak on a Yamaha… So where would Hayden be if he was on a better bike? Hmmmmm. I had hoped for him to land on a satellite Honda or tech 3 Yamaha before leaving MotoGP and put a boot into Ducati’s ass for dumping him without ever putting a competitive machine under him. I will follow him wherever he ends up though to see how he does. Hopefully it will be something that energizes him, not something that breaks his spirit

  • paulus

    Sincere best wishes of success for Mr Hayden’s future.
    A truly beloved and respected racer. Good luck to you, mate!

    He has done a fine job, doing what he is contracted to do (shame so many others don’t… eh Rossi)
    however, it is a stretch to link him to Ducati sales boost.

    Look at the models which sell. Diavel is the big growth model. MutliStrada’s, Hypermotard… monsters, it is an expansion of segments that has increased the sales…. but for sure having a man like Hayden helps :)

  • Westward

    “We might not be singing quite so loudly the praises of Mark Marquez, but imagine how loudly we would be singing if Marquez were getting the same results with Stoner as a competitor.” — Scott Jones

    * That depends, there are only four bikes capable of winning a race and six or seven capable of making the podium…

    Some one asked where Hayden would have been on a better bike. Well, in all his years at Repsol he only managed three victories, and won a title not by being the best, but by being the most fortunate of that season…

    That being said, he is one of the top ten riders in the world currently.

  • bobx

    ducati = motogp suicide.

  • Dave

    Nicky is a much classier act than Ducati. Just sad that Ducati can’t seem to get their act together.
    I believe Nicky did more for Ducati than Ducati did for Nicky

  • chaz michael michaels

    It’s funny how much it’s overlooked–Nicky basically beat or did by-and-large the same result as Rossi when Rossi was with Ducati. Look at Rossi now.

    Nicky by-and-large does exactly as Dovi this year (I see Nicky beating Dovi on a more regular basis in the second half of the season). Look at what Dovi was able to do last year.

    Yet this seems to be ignored. As if excuses are being made to ignore it “well he’s pretty,…well he doesn’t want to win as much…well bla bla bla.”

    Nope. Sorry. Nicky Hayden on this year’s Honda would be right up there with Pedrosa and MM. Beating MM? mixing it up with him for sure.

    Nicky on the Yamaha would be mixing it up with Rossi and Jorge.

    It would defy logic to think otherwise. But it seems like the extra, outside of racing PR he does actually works against his cred.

  • Amiro

    well said Westward
    “Some one asked where Hayden would have been on a better bike. Well, in all his years at Repsol he only managed three victories, and won a title not by being the best, but by being the most fortunate of that season…”
    nothing against the Kentucky kid but he only got the championship thanks to Toni Elias…

  • chaz michael michaels

    Oh god not this again…

    Toni Elias saved Nicky. How about Dani Pedrosa crashing Nicky out? That was tremendously fortunate for Nicky.

    How about Rossi the next race crashing out on his own. Nobody crashed into Rossi, he simply slid into the kitty litter on his own. Mad skills there. Oh that lucky Nicky.

    There is no such thing as a lucky world champion. The season is a marathon not a sprint. The one with the most points at the end wins the title. Luck plays a role-lucky not to get injured, lucky not to have guys like Pedrosa crash you out race after race… But if you win the title it’s not because you were lucky.

    …where’s Pedrosa’s title? He’s been with Honda 100 years.

  • L2C

    You’re right, Chaz. Nicky won his title fair and square.

    Nothing else needs to be said on the matter of any rider who wins a title. If a rider wins a title, he/she won the title. Period. The rest is bullshit.

    Nicky will continue to do well. Hopefully in MotoGP without compromising Stefan Bradl or another deserving rider.

  • Paulo

    Little to nothing to do with it! Ducati on it’s own, if they completely left MotoGP would still continue to sell Moto’s…..and lots of them! The brand image is bigger then common sense and related to racing or any in-particular rider outside Rossi. Rossi not winning, Ducati still sold a record setting amount of bikes and even now after he left, they are still selling a record number of bikes……’s mutually exclusive. Look at BMW, they have outsold the HELL out Ducati by numbers (not by percentage of sales), they are NOT EVEN IN MOTOGP!!! The two biggest reason’s BMW and Ducati have done well, 1. People with money (even in this downturn economy) still have money and would rather by brand image and perceived value. 2. Lust factor…..above and beyond anything else emotions drive 60%+ of sales. Think about those two things and I guarantee next time you find yourself lusting after a DUC you’re not thinking of Nicky or Davi!

  • L2C

    Well, Nicky’s BMW offer is officially off the table.

    Holy Shit! Not for Nicky, for WSBK.

  • Ian

    Paulo is 100% correct. After years of riding Yamaha R1s, I bought an S1000RR because the bike offered what I was looking for. I’m at the track all the time and I have never talked with one BMW owner who said they bought their bike because of race results. BMW was losing in WSBK and sales were fantastic. Ducati is losing everywhere and sales are fantastic.

    You have to think this factored into BMW pulling out of WSBK. There is no direct connection between winning and sales. Racing does help with developing products, but it was supposed to really help with building a brand. Seems like it doesn’t do that anymore and that is a dangerous trend.

  • Dave

    something a lot of people forget to factor is the amount Nicky is getting paid? His salary figures with Ducati have been very hush-hush. I would ride in the premier class on a slower machine for some loooooooong money. Its too bad the Ducati boys couldn’t make the bikes performance more readily available for anyone other than Stoner. His patience didn’t reward him with more championships, but he is and probably will be around the paddock for a very long time. Take Randy Mamola for example. Massive talent, maybe not so soft spoken but without question, every bit the show-man. I hope he gets a good seat in WSBK. IMHO he deserves some time on the podium before he hangs up the leather.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    I have to disagree. There can be a connection between sales and rider. It is conceptual and nebulous but it is a tangible factor for sure.

    Do you think Yamaha factored paying a past-his-prime Valentino Rossi into its projected sales? You bet they did.

    Ducati certainly factored what Nicky could do for their sales in various markets and Nicky delivered on that front. The race results are less about Nicky more about the race bike. I think this is well understood by Ducati and it will very likely factor into their desire to keep Nicky for their WSB program. I think it’s pretty clear Ducati likes Nicky Hayden and respect his ability as a rider.

    Honda is certainly thrilled with what MM is doing for them and it should translate into sales at some point based on the fact that he’s a young, charasmatic, likeable, exciting talent…and at some point MM’s star power will work against Pedrosa who isn’t those things.

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Regarding Honda and MM’s star power–it will also probably factor into Honda providing Darth Vader (Stoner) an offer he can’t refuse.

  • Ian

    Honda’s street bikes are waaaaaayyyy behind many of the other manufacturers bikes right now. The ONLY thing that will help them sell more units is bringing better products to market. Of course I am only talking about 600 cc and 1,000 cc sport bikes. If they do that, MM will be the perfect marketing tool. If they don’t, it won’t matter very much who is riding their bikes and what results they are getting.

    Even Rossi can’t make people buy a bike that doesn’t measure up to other similarly priced bikes. Hell, Yamaha made a bike that had HIS livery on it and nobody wanted it. Some are still sitting in Yamaha dealerships right now! The R1 is dated which means Jorge can win the championship, Hayes can win the championship and R1s will sit on the dealer floors until something new arrives (not just new flame paint jobs).

    Honda and Yamaha are winning all the races, BMW and Ducati are selling all the bikes.

  • bgdog

    ducati = motogp suicide really.

    get real, its a job and Nicky made a killing. You know how much more Cal will make riding a Duc coming in 6th for 2 yrs then he will make on Tech 3. If you had a 6-8 yr earning window you would ride a duc and finish in back as well. There are 3 riders that can win a championship thats it, others know they have no chance so why not get paid and do what you love.

  • Fred

    “Honda and Yamaha are winning all the races, BMW and Ducati are selling all the bikes.”

    What is better? Sell a 1.000 Panigales, 1.500 S1000RR or hit a market like phillipnes, indonesia, brazil, and sells a over 10k bikes/month with the images of lorenzo, rossi and etc?

  • Tony C

    “What is better? Sell a 1.000 Panigales, 1.500 S1000RR or hit a market like phillipnes, indonesia, brazil, and sells a over 10k bikes/month with the images of lorenzo, rossi and etc?”

    There is this thing called “profit margin”. Honda moves millions of bikes with very thin margin. Its especially true with their global bikes in developing country. Honda might have to move 10K bikes each day just to break even. BMW and Ducati target different segment and can profit with low volume/high margin bikes.

  • Ziggy

    The people that can afford a Ducati or BMW will most likely have Schwantz, Lawson and Rainey posters in their garage. I doub’t Nicky – as great a rider as he is – will be much of a factor in deciding which brand to buy. Your average 20 something will most likely will be riding a Japanese machine and might be influenced by “Winning on Sunday.” But I doubt anyone shelling out 20 grand for a bike cares whether Nicky gets a podium.

    In fact, now that I think about it, when I was in my 20’s my friends were even brand loyal to Japanese machines and no amount of winning or losing made a difference in their buying decisions.

  • AC

    Ducati owes him a ride in WSBK, honestly. I think his odds are great in that series and hopefully he can do well on a Panigale.

    Of course, the Panigale is demonstrating the same sort of results as the Desmo currently…

  • Tony W

    I think Nik has the experience to be quite a big help to Suzuki.
    If they were racing in 14 hiring Nik would be a smart move for them.

    Hope he finds a good ride.

  • Ian

    Selling 1,000s of small cc bikes in India, Brazil, etc. has nothing to do with racing. At least not in North America and Europe. I can’t pretend to know what moves people’s buying habits in those other countries.

    But we are talking about Moto GP (and potentially WSBK) when we talk about Hayden, Rossi and Marquez. Does their racing and winning on a certain manufacturer sell product? The relationship between the two has never been less significant. As an avid race fan, that worries me.

    Disclaimer: I’m from America and I am referring to the current state of sales and interest in America. I realize there is a whole world out there with expanding economies and potential sales growth.

  • Hayden fans are plenty old and just the right age to market Ducs to. I don’t know if that translates into being worth millions in salary. but they have to pay someone to finish 6th, it might as well be someone plenty pleasant for the potential customers. and a world champ.

  • JW

    Nicky did not ruin his Career riding for Ducati. Lets see, 5 years at about 4 mil per year plus endorsements, that’s about 25 mil with the Ducati brand. He’s been in MOTOGP 11 years so that’s about 40 million dollars total in GP. I suspect he did another 10 million before GP as a pro. not bad for anyone to stay in the game that long. O, his number 69 was his fathers number, not some alter ego number he himself had to have. Scott this by far is your best piece yet, because you have helped (I hope ) some realize more what this show is about and it’s about branding, selling bikes, and then maybe winning too. Branding the product is more important than winning a limited audience race. Nicky has done way more for Ducati’s sales than the opposite personality of say Lorenzo and Yamaha. When Nicky talkes you can’t help but smile, when Lorenzo talks you tend to have bad thoughts. Nicky will land somewhere, if not he can retire and find it a challenge to ever spend all the money he has made racing motorcycles.

    This is the greatest show on earth

  • Nicky is a great rider has been a factory rider his whole career . He’s now 32 and hasn’t won a race in years so change is good for him and Ducati. Rossi didn’t fair much better on the Duc but at the end of the day he has 9 titles and is easily the most popular rider in the sport. I would rather see Nicky winning in WSBK than running around mid pack on a CRT.

  • Ain’t that a shame! Kentucky Kid is a true icon of MotoGP, a champion and a true pro, that never speaks badly of his team/bike/teammates. Married with Ducati he really ruined his best years, but you can’t do nothing about that but to admire his passion. Ducati ruined many careers, cause every rider thinks “If Casey did it, so can I” – and fails. I just hope there’s some bike that deserves him.

  • “If a rider wins a title, he/she won the title. Period. The rest is bullshit.”

    +1 to both Chaz and L2C here. This is truth. Nicky ‘only’ won the title that year because he outperformed all the other pretenders to the throne. Welcome to the hard facts of championships.

  • Brian J

    I personally, have had more interest in Moto-GP since Hayden. Maybe WSBK will start getting more of my attention. Rossi is fun, and I enjoy him, but he’s on the downward end of his racing. Cal Crutchlow is probably the only reason I might still watch but… Thanks for all the great racing action Nicky! You’ll always be one of my favorites!

  • Mariani


    “Selling 1,000s of small cc bikes in India, Brazil, etc. has nothing to do with racing.”

    As a Brazilian, I can report that every other Honda or Yamaha that I spot on the street has an yellow ’46’ on them. Or a Monster decal. You get the picture.

    Anyway, I disagree about those saying that racing doesn’t help you sell bikes. Do you guys honestly think that Ducati would have made it into the 21st century without it’s WSBK program?

  • TexusTim

    I also agree Nicky won the championship fair and square…some luck good and bad happens to riders during the season that is why the championship is not decided on one race but the entire year..”he who has the points wins”.. it’s that simple, to say a rider like Nicky didnt win on his own merits isnt taking all things into account. there are rumors that Nicky had a private sit down with suzuki at laguna. wish they could come in for 2014..that would solve many things…wouldnt hurt anyone but duactti….for real think about them losing to another japan company…? maybe ducati hopes to be competitve in 2015…lol

  • Chaz Michael Michaels

    Texus I agree with you 100%. And not just because I’m a Hayden fan.

    I agree with this article too. The motogp series just won’t be as interesting without Nicky Hayden on the grid.

    Come on Suzuki…or come on LCR Honda have a two rider team…

  • Ian

    @ Mariani,

    I agree Rossi has a huge impact on the community of racing fans. His stuff is everywhere. But, people in America aren’t buying R1s and R6s because of him. Like I said, his OWN signature bike was a sales failure. They were being discounted to get moved of the floor. I have never seen one on the street or at any West Coast track (and I go to just about all of them).

    Every market is different and some other countries are far more passionate about motorcycles than America. I hope the racing and the riders are making an impact in those places. When I was in Spain two years ago, I couldn’t believe all the attention Marquez was already getting. I went into a Motocard and he was everywhere inside the store.

    Hopefully, the sales and growth in the emerging markets will allow the manufacturers to keep racing and keep producing better street bikes. BMW and Ducati are doing it already. Now it is time for Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki to step up.

  • proudAmerican

    I love Nicky Hayden for all the reasons you guys have said above. I’m hoping he’ll move to WSBK so he can again win races, and get a smile back on his face (much like Rossi is wearing again). I’d love to see Nicky, Ben and Colin all move to WSBK!!

    Having Nicky back in WSBK would hopefully convince American television to once again televise the series.

  • Halfie30

    Nicky won more than 3 races on the Repsol Honda… LOL. People can’t even get their facts straight.

  • @Halfie30: “People can’t even get their facts straight.”

    Indeed. Nicky one 1 race in 2005 and 2 races in 2006. They are his only wins in the class since he joined in 2003.

  • Ba Wild

    I sense the bidding of Dorna. Always vocal at wanting ‘new’ riders for his ‘show’ and, I suspect, keen to have a salesman for WSB in the States. Win, win. But not for those whom are fans. He has been the poster boy for finding the positive and being a corporate player without being a dullard as many of the sponsor thanking characterless riders, though clearly talented are tedious at best and irritating to many. Without winning many of them offer nothing.

    As such I can only hope this decision implies there is a competitive new bike ready for next year- after all why remove Hayden just to put someone else on a bike that wont win and whom may not be half the sponsors’ dream Nicky is, performances aside.

  • some1

    IF Hayden ride current Crutchlow’s Yamaha THEN

    Hayden may win at least a single race this season


    Nothing change

    END IF

    ps – I wonder why all computer programmed with IF conditions yet it’s all working properly. Probably, the reality is the big IFs.

  • Westward

    +1 Ian

    BMW and Ducati offer technology and innovation where everyone else only offers a new colour scheme for their fairings. Who cares if neither bike is winning a championship 98% of the public that buy those bikes would never come close the the limit or full potential of those bikes even in their dreams…

    @ Chaz & L2C

    I don’t think anyone disputes Hayden won his championship fair and square. But even Hayden like Schwantz feels it is a little diminshed due to the circumstances of how they won it..

    Hayden did not dominate the season the way Rossi, Stoner, or even Lorenzo have in recent years. He did not even record the most wins that year or poles. He was simply the beneficiary of the folly of others. Schwantz, as great as he is, I bet did not want to win his title the way he did either. With Rainey out of contention, who else was there to challenge…

    I have heard Hayden on a few occasions say he has a soft spot for Elias and what he’s meant to him for that title year. Though Hayden says it in jest, he knows it is true. At least in his mind.

    For me, Rossi lost 2006, not because of Elias’s victory in Portugal or his take down of Rossi in China, Nor for Rossi’s fall at Valencia, though those events did contribute obviously. I personally lay the blame at the feet of Yamaha for the races at Le Mans and Laguna., and I know Furusawa agrees (he has said so himself).

    Rossi would have won 2006 if the bikes did not fail him on either occasion. On the last turn of the last lap at LeMans, Rossi’s bike stops and he was dominating that race. Though Rossi was not going to win Laguna, again he would have finish with more than the five point needed to win the title, had the bike just been able to finish the race. He was the most dominate racer with the most wins that season, with three times the victories than Hayden and twice that of Capirossi.

    Speaking of Capirossi, he too would have won the title in 2006, had the Accident of Catalunya not have knocked him out of that race and affected him for the following race at Assen too. He too won more races than Hayden that season.

    Did Hayden win it fair and square, sure he did. Absolutely. Was it also fortuitous, you bet…

    Hayden’s no fool and he knows it too…