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Nicky Hayden

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An exhibition of Nicky Hayden photographs, by the Italian photographer Mirco Lazzari, opened during the Imola WorldSBK round, aptly named “A Million Dollar Smile”. With 69 photographs depicting the American’s international career, it provided a reminder to fans of what made the Kentucky Kid so popular. For Lazzari, the challenge of finding the correct pictures was a trying time ,with weeks spent to ensure he struck the right chord, as the first anniversary of Hayden’s death approaches. “I wanted to create an exhibition for Nicky, and it was very emotional because Nicky was a rider that gave all of us a lot of emotions,” said Lazzari. “He meant a lot to so many fans and to the sport, so I wanted to do this exhibition because he is missed by so many people.”

Nicky Hayden’s hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky is gearing up to honor its local hero, with plans to erect a statue of the Kentucky Kid on the front lawn of the Owensboro Convention Center.

The statue will capture one of Hayden’s most memorable moments, and one of the most iconic images of the MotoGP Legend – his race win at Laguna Seca from the 2006 MotoGP Championship season (shown above).

Just like in the photo, the bronze statue of Hayden will include him holding an actual American flag. And in addition to the statue, the City of Owensboro is also declaring June 9th Nicky Hayden, a reference to Nicky’s racing number: 69.

The motorcycling world once again descended upon Austin, Texas, as motorcycle road racing came to the Circuit of the Americas and the custom bike community arrived in droves for the Handbuilt Show.

This article will give you a flavor of what went on at the racetrack, while a second article will cover the Handbuilt.

As always, the Circuit of the Americas put on a great show. The facility is truly world-class and it made for a great weekend of racing.

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.

Nicky Hayden may have left us, but he is not forgotten, and now the World Champion will have a permanent memorial in Misano, Italy, as the city pays tribute to the American rider as well.

Accordingly, the Council of Misano is planning to create the “Giardino Nicky Hayden”, which will be a garden near the intersection where Hayden’s fateful crash occurred, not far from the Misano World Circuit, at corner of via Ca’ Raffaelli and via Tavoleto.

The memorial garden will be built by Denis Pazzaglini, friend and former mechanic to Hayden, during his time in the Repsol Honda MotoGP team.

The garden is expected to open later this year on May 22nd, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of losing Hayden during his bicycling incident involving another vehicle.

2017 has been a strange year in motorcycle racing. We have had one of the best ever seasons of racing in MotoGP, with close finishes and a surprise title challenger.

We have seen one of the best ever WorldSBK riders stamp his authority on the series, though that has also seen the championship suffer partly as a result.

We have seen young talent come through in the support classes, and older talent recognized and appreciated. There has been much to celebrate.

But there has also been much to mourn. 2017 saw two of the most iconic names in motorcycle racing lose their lives, ironically, both in traffic accidents and not on motorcycles.

Nicky Hayden was killed while out training on his bicycle, hit by a car as he crossed a road at a treacherous crossroads. Angel Nieto suffered head injuries when he was hit by a car while out riding a quad bike on Ibiza.

On May 17th, 2017, Nicky Hayden was out training on his bicycle, near the Adriatic Coast, when he was struck by car in an intersection very close to the Misano World Circuit. The incident would prove to be a fateful one, and send ripples through the motorcycle industry, as Hayden died five days later in a hospital outside of Rimini, Italy. Since then, the accident has been under investigation by the local prosecutor, and the results of that forensic investigation have now been released to the public. Reconstructing the incident through statements made by the driver, eyewitnesses, and CCTV video footage, the investigation has found fault on both sides of the crash – assigning 30% of the blame to Nicky Hayden, for running the stop sign, and 70% of the blame to the driver, for excessive speed.

Last weekend’s World Superbike race at Laguna Seca was one of mixed emotions for American race fans. On one hand, it was an opportunity to say goodbye to Nicky Hayden, a man who left this life too soon and was revered at this iconic race track.

On the other hand, it was a chance to see another American, Jake Gagne, make his debut in World Superbike as part of the same team of which Hayden was a member.

As I walked around the track, there were tributes to Nicky everywhere. The number 69 was ubiquitous throughout the weekend, with flags, banners, t-shirts, and stickers displayed by proud fans who now miss him so much.

Both Chaz Davies and Toni Elias flew Hayden flags on their respective victory laps; a moving tribute to a man they held in such high esteem.

Additionally, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca sponsored a track walk in memory of Nicky. Hundreds of fans lined up to remember Nicky and support the memorial fund that bears his name.

Both American Honda and Laguna Seca had murals, on which fans could leave messages of remembrance for Nicky and words of support for those he left behind. Nicky’s impact on road racing, and American road racing in particular, was obvious throughout the event.

While the memories of Nicky Hayden were palpable throughout the weekend, Jake Gagne quietly went about the business of adapting to a new team, learning a new motorcycle, and racing in a new series.

Episode 56 of the Two Enthusiasts Podcast gets us back into our normal format of talking about motorcycles, and whatever rabbit holes present themselves along the way.

Before we get to that part though, we take a somber moment to remember Nicky Hayden, who passed away just a couple weeks before the recording of this episode.

We had recorded a special episode just about Nicky, the day that he passed, but it didn’t feel right to publish it. Our emotions were too raw.

Modestly philosophical during the show now, we also discuss the passing of Davey Lambert, who on the day of this recording succumbed to his injuries sustained at the Isle of Man TT. Two more racers would later die at the TT, Jochem van den Hoek and Alan Bonner. We hold all these racers in our thoughts.

Getting back to our normal selves, we discuss a bit of news, namely Harley-Davidson’s new factory in Thailand, and what that says about the state of the motorcycle industry. We also talk some racing action, as Andrea Dovizioso had just won the Italian GP at Mugello.

The show wraps up with some discussion about supermoto racing, as I participated in the Cascadia Supermoto round held here in Oregon, near Portland.

You can listen to the show via the embedded SoundCloud player, after the jump, or you can find the show on iTunes (please leave a review) or this RSS feed. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

You may have noticed during the Italian GP at Mugello, that Valentino Rossi was once again wearing a special AGV Pista GP R helmet for the event. Created by designer Aldo Drudi, this year’s Mugello’s helmet pays homage to Nicky Hayden and Francesco Totti.

To remember the American motorcycle racer, Rossi’s #46 morphs into the shape and colors of Hayden’s #69, complete with the star that precedes Hayden’s number.

The top of Rossi’s helmet also portrays a soccer pitch, where the nine-time world champion is wearing the blue jersey of the Italian national team, and saying “Mo’ je faccio er cucchiaio” which translates (with a Roman accent) to “I made it spoon” – the spoon referring to a type of penalty kick that sees the ball arching into the goal.

This scene too pays tribute to another athlete – Francesco Totti, who played his last match with the A.S. Roma team last week. On the back of the helmet are “Un capitano…C’è solo un capitano!”, which translates to: “One captain… There’s only one captain!”

This is another nod to Totti, as the chant is something his fans would yell to him while he was playing.