Sears Point Preview

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Courtesy John Cardinale:
Honda's Nicky Hayden fell one spot shortof his goal at Sears Point Raceway last year when Yamaha's Anthony Gobertbarely beat him to the checkered flag at the AMA U.S. Chevy Trucks SuperbikeChampionship Series event.

This year, the 20-year-old rider returns to Sears Point primed to take hisfirst Superbike win on the twisting road course at the AMA Supercuts SuperbikeChallenge, May 3-5...

Overall, Hayden has been quite successful at Sears Point Raceway, winning boththe Formula Xtreme and Supersport championships in 1999. His second-placefinish in 2001marked his best Superbike effort at Sears Point.

Hayden enters Sears Point with momentum, having won four of the last five AMAChevy Trucks U.S. Superbike races of the 2001 season, and finishing thirdoverall in the points standings. He has continued his charge in 2002 by winningthe Daytona 200, and one round of the Superbike doubleheader at CaliforniaSpeedway. He enters Sears Point atop the Superbike standings.

Hayden's success shouldn't be a surprise as he comes from a family that'sdeeply involved in the racing scene. His older brother, Tommy, competes in thePro Honda Oils U.S. Supersport class, and his younger brother, Roger, is ridingHondas for the Erion Racing Team in both the 600 Supersport class and LockhartPhillips USA Formula Xtreme.

This year, Nicky's back riding Honda's RC51 Superbike, and nobody's learned theropes faster. Soft-spoken, polite, and quick with a smile, Hayden makes itlook easy on the track, smoothly drifting both wheels through a turn, yetlapping at a blistering pace.

"I'm really looking forward to the 2002 season," he said. "It seems like we'vereally got all the pieces in place this year. I know how important it is to beconsistent, and to just keep working toward my goal at every race. We'vedefinitely got the right package with the RC51.

"I've been riding motorcycles for as long as I can remember," Hayden said inhis native Kentucky drawl. "When I was little, we went to the race track likeother kids went to the park. One of the biggest advantages for me is thatracing came pretty naturally. It's something that I've worked pretty hard at -even though I'm young, I've been racing a long time."

While Hayden has enjoyed success on the AMA circuit, he remains humble, whetherit's signing an autograph for a fan or standing on the podium.

"I just feel real fortunate to get paid to do what I love to do. And this isjust awesome for me - it's a dream come true," he said. "So I want to enjoy itwhile I can, and work hard, because I know at any moment it could be gone. Itmight not last forever, so I just want to try to make the most of it while Ican."

Both Hayden and his teammate, Miguel Duhamel, will ride in the Superbike classfor the 2002 season, including the Supercuts Superbike Challenge at Sears PointRaceway. With this and other events favoring a doubleheader format it'sbecoming tough to be competitive in more than one class, and Honda's RC51demands all of your attention, all of the time. Straightaway speeds of 175-plusmph are common, and chassis and suspension setup and tuning are as complex anddemanding as an Indy car.

Hayden is up to the task for the 2002 season, and if everything falls intoplace he'll be crowned champion of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. SuperbikeChampionship.

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