I was super stoked to write about my weekend at Tampa MX and winning my first-ever motocross race until I heard the news that Nicky Hayden passed away and, this time, after multiple reputable international sources confirmed, it wasn’t fake news. I cried in my cubicle, sitting there in complete shock. I wondered, selfishly, why the ones we love the most are taken away from us too soon. The motorcycle community is small, sure, and my heroes are everybody’s heroes, I guess. Maybe only the good die young, like Billy Joel said, or God needs them. But I don’t believe any of that. Motorcycle racing is dangerous, sure. But so is bicycling, apparently. Nothing is safe. Nothing makes sense.

The Finnerty bros, Nicky and I at Mid-Ohio in 2000

I was a young racer (see above) when I met Nicky and Roger Lee at Mid-Ohio in 2000. At the time, he was the dreamy “Kentucky Kid” my dad told me about. We watched him and his brothers every year when they came down to race flat track at Daytona. I stood in line by myself to have my picture taken with him and get his autograph – he was my Prince Charming. A few years later, I submitted a question to the Ask Nicky column in my favorite motorcycle publication, Racer X Illustrated, and they printed it along with his answer! I dreamed of showing it to him one day …

Hearing the news Monday, I walked around looking for a tissue. When asked why I was crying, I told my colleagues about Nicky, who they’d never heard of. It’s hard to believe someone who inspired me “to have it inside” (see above) and motivated me so much was unbeknownst to them. I returned to my desk, reading all of the social posts from my other heroes – his brother, Roger Lee, Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath. We’re all at a loss for words. The only thing I can do is change my racing number to 69 – sorry, Mom. – in his memory and keep on racing for him.

They ain’t seen the blood sweat and tears it took to live their dreams
When everything’s on the line
Ain’t just another field, just another farm
No, it’s the ground we grew up on
They think it’s a middle of nowhere place where we take it slow
Aw but they don’t know – Jason Aldean


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