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Roger Hayden Appreciates Family Legacy of Two-Wheeled Speed, Success at IMS

From a car racing perspective, there are hundreds of names that helped make Indianapolis Motor Speedway what it is today. On the motorcycle side, it starts with Nicky Hayden.

2006 MotoGP World Champion Hayden ignited interest in two-wheel racing at the Racing Capital of the World when he took the fight to five-time defending series champion Valentino Rossi in the first of eight consecutive MotoGP events at IMS, in 2008. Hayden never won a MotoGP event in Indianapolis, but he consistently was competitive and always the face of the sport in the U.S.

Hayden died in 2017 following a cycling accident in Italy, but his legacy is felt this weekend at IMS as MotoAmerica and its six classes compete on the 16-turn, 2.591-mile road course. Hayden’s younger brother, Roger, who had his share of stirring rides at the Brickyard, is here as a broadcaster on MotoAmerica’s streaming service, MotoAmerica Live+.

“Nicky was a popular rider and easy to cheer for,” Roger said. “He would come here and do all the press stuff. He came here and rode that old (Indian) bike. Indy flew him up here for the (Indianapolis) ‘500.’

“People were attracted to him because you could tell he was a good guy. Any time you heard him talk or met him one time you definitely wanted to cheer for him.”

Much of the support for the Haydens came from their hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky, located 200 miles to the south of IMS. Roger Hayden remembers IMS officials designating a section of the Turn 1 grandstands to Hayden fans, which the family considered a special gesture.

“Not too often could you come to a race and have a whole corner full of people from your hometown, and I’m not talking about just a handful of people – it was a hundred or more, at least,” Roger Hayden said. “It was one of the coolest things for us.”

Of all of the trophies Roger Hayden, 37, won in his riding career, a pair of second-place trophies are among his favorites. Why? Because they came from Indy.

MotoAmerica’s HONOS Superbikes, which are racing three times here this weekend, made their IMS debut in 2015, and Hayden lost both races to current series leader Cameron Beaubier by the slimmest of margins: .040 and .015 of a second, respectively. Do the math.

“Not even a tenth of a second,” Roger Hayden said. “Incredible.

“This racetrack is definitely a special place. When you pull into that tunnel and come out the other side, it has another feeling, kind of like Daytona has. As a rider, you go to a place like that and want to do better than (most places). I could always say I got on the podium at the Brickyard.”

Hayden, who retired from racing at the end of the 2018 season, said broadcasting has taken more work than he expected. For one, he has to remember to keep talking even when he’s running short on things to say. Secondly, he has learned that racers don’t always share everything with outsiders, so he has to be judicious with the information he has been told.

“Sometimes they give wrong information and then you say it on (the broadcast),” he said. “That makes it hard.

“I used to be hard on announcers like in football or basketball, but now I see how hard it really is.”

Racing continues through Sunday with 17-lap Superbike races at 11:10 a.m. and 3:10 p.m. Tickets are available on IMS.com. Fans 15 and younger receive free general admission when accompanied by an adult general admission ticket-holder.

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