News & Multimedia

Top 10 Moments of 2017 - #7: Farewell, Nicky and Jim

Editor's Note: This is the fourth of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2017 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s always hard to say goodbye to dear friends. But the loss of Nicky Hayden and Jim Nabors hit especially hard for us in 2017 at IMS.

It may seem odd, but there were many common bonds between motorcycle racer Hayden, who died in May at age 35, and actor and entertainer Nabors, who died in November at age 87.

Both were Southern gentlemen. Hayden hailed from his beloved Owensboro, Kentucky, while Nabors was born in Sylacauga, Alabama.

Both were world-class at their chosen fields. Hayden stunned megastar Valentino Rossi to win the 2006 MotoGP World Championship and was a mainstay of the premier class of global motorcycle road racing for more than a decade. Nabors was beloved in his TV role as Gomer Pyle and also thrilled audiences around the world with his rich baritone, which he used to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” 36 times before the Indianapolis 500 36 between 1972 and 2014.

Both men were exceedingly friendly and gracious to their fans, always posing for photos and signing autographs.

But perhaps the bond between Nicky and Jim that resonated the most with IMS fans was their love for the Racing Capital of the World.

Hayden tirelessly worked to promote the Red Bull Indianapolis GP during its eight-year run at IMS from 2008-15. He often drove up from Owensboro, usually with at least one member of his incredibly tight-knit, fun family along for the ride, and did any promotion and PR work asked of him – always with a smile on his face.

Nabors loved returning to IMS for Indianapolis 500 Race Weekend, taking in the 500 Festival Parade, Public Drivers Meeting, Victory Celebration and other festivities with his dear friends, IMS Chairman of the Board Emeritus Mari Hulman George and fellow entertainer Florence Henderson.

Both men also had a quality so unique among celebrities. They made an instant connection with everyone they met through kindness and humility, making “regular folk” feel like they were the important ones, not vice-versa.

Hayden and Nabors also seemingly were more grateful for the privileges and access extended to them by IMS than we were for their tireless work and dedication to the track. And trust me, we loved and were so thankful for Nicky and Jim.

So news of their deaths – Nicky after a tragic bicycle accident and Jim after an illness – hit everyone hard at IMS. These guys were legends, the highest possible achievers in their fields. But they also were our friends and people who had the same passion for IMS as us.

They were one of us. And we loved them for that. So it was only fitting that the loss of both men were memorialized by poignant tributes on the IMS Scoring Pylon. Nabors also is being honored by a light display on the Lights at the Brickyard route.

Godspeed, Nicky and Jim. You’ll always be remembered here at IMS.

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Day 7
Top 10 Moments of 2017 - #7: Farewell, Nicky and Jim
It’s always hard to say goodbye to dear friends. But the loss of Nicky Hayden and Jim Nabors hit especially hard for us in 2017 at IMS.
Read More
Related Media
Legends Day Announcement
Sam Hunt To Headline Firestone Legends Day Concert
Grammy Award nominee and multi-platinum superstar Sam Hunt will headline the Firestone Legends Day Concert on Saturday, May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Race Weekend for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Read More
Fittipaldi Dale Coyne Racing
Fittipaldi to Run 102nd Indy 500 in Split Season Deal with Dale Coyne Racing
Dale Coyne Racing confirmed today that rookie drivers Zachary Claman DeMelo and Pietro Fittipaldi will share the team’s No. 19 Honda in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, with sponsorship from global payments provider Paysafe.
Read More
INDYCAR Windscreen
INDYCAR To Conduct First On-Track Test of Windscreen on Feb. 8
INDYCAR will take the next step in the evolution of its driver safety program by testing a windscreen on an Indy car for the first time on track, Thursday, Feb. 8, at ISM Raceway. The test will be held in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series' preseason open test near Phoenix.
Read More
Indianapolis 500
Month of May at IMS To Be Featured in Exciting Super Bowl Regional TV Commerical
The pageantry, excitement and tradition of the Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be featured in a regional advertisement airing on NBC’s telecast of Super Bowl LII on Sunday, Feb. 4.
Read More
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
SPM Unveils 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Season Liveries
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports unveiled today, from Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis alongside 100 lucky fans, the three Dallara-Honda Indy cars of James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens and Jack Harvey in their 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season liveries.
Read More
Items 9 - 13 of 594
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at
Latest Tweets
It's Pole day on @CrownRoyal Armed Forces Weekend & we can't wait to see you! Check out details on the day:
May 21