In the world of motorcycle racing, the number 69 is synonymous with one person: Nicky Hayden. “The Kentucky Kid” left an indelible mark on this sport, punctuated by his 2006 MotoGP championship, which earned him MotoGP “Legend” status upon his departure to World Superbike at the end of 2015. As a tribute to the late, great champion, Dorna will retire the number 69 from premier Grand Prix racing at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, ensuring the number and the man will forever be linked.
Hayden burst onto the MotoGP scene in 2003, fresh off an AMA Superbike championship the year before and immediately turned heads with his flat track-inspired riding style. His rookie year saw him battling at the front aboard his Repsol Honda, scoring several podium finishes. Two years later, Hayden would finally stand on the top step of the podium at his home round of Laguna Seca, completely blitzing the field. Of course, the 2006 season will be the one he’s most remembered for, as he was entrenched in a year-long battle with Valentino Rossi for the title, grabbing it at the last race in Valencia after Rossi suffered an uncharacteristic crash.
Beyond his performance on the track, Hayden was respected for his demeanor off the bike. Always personable with both fans and media alike, Hayden was also known for being one of the hardest workers when it came time for testing, often logging more laps than anyone else. He was an animal on track and a true gentleman and professional off it, and his presence continues to be missed.
“What a great honor it will be for Nicky’s #69 to be retired at Austin,” says Hayden’s father, Earl. “It is very fitting that it will be done at the US race as these races meant so much to Nicky and he looked forward to them so much every year. For myself in particular this will be very special event because the #69 was my number when I raced and I was very proud to see Nicky run the #69 on his bikes for his entire career. On behalf of my entire family I would like to say a special thanks to Dorna for honoring Nicky in this special way along with the many other gestures they have done to support us through the difficult times.”
The full story can be found at MotoGP.com.