Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame Class of 2015 will be inducted this Saturday, October 24th at the Museum of Science and History. The Induction Ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 3:00 p.m. on the 2nd floor of the museum.
The Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the accomplishments of Kentucky natives in all forms of motorsports competition.
Owensboro’s Earl Hayden will receive the Pioneer Award.
As the patriarch of the Hayden motorcycle racing family, Earl Hayden has become one of the most recognizable and beloved figures in motorsports.
Born in Newman, Kentucky, just outside Owensboro, Earl bought his first motorcycle from a neighbor and would ride it back and forth to Owensboro Catholic High School. With the help of his good friend Junior Boone, who owned a Honda shop in Owensboro, Earl began racing enduros and dirt tracks on the weekend.
By the time he started Brescia College, where he majored in business and graduated in 1969, Earl was winning trophies and having a blast! Rose even raced with him in the powder puff races. Eventually Earl got his pro license and found success racing flat tracks as well.
Always the businessman, Earl operated a car wash, bred and sold race horses, and opened a car lot to support his 20-year racing “habit.” (He never called it a “career”.) But by the time he and Rose started having kids, Earl decided to hang up his boots and devote his time to his children; Tommy, Jenny, Nicky, Roger, and Kathleen.
All five Hayden kids raced, at least for a short time. Earl and Rose built a dirt track on their property so the kids could practice as much as they pleased. Tommy started racing at Windy Hollow Raceway before he turned 3. Jenny, Nicky, and Kathleen followed, although Kathleen’s racing stint soon gave way to her love for tennis. Jenny also stopped racing to focus on tennis, but by then Roger was chasing down his older brothers.
With Earl’s guidance, first Tommy, then Nicky, then Roger all turned pro at 16. In 2001, the Hayden brothers made history by sweeping the podium at the Springfield (Illinois) TT, the first and only time three brothers placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. All three eventually became AMA champions; Nicky in 1999 (Supersport) & 2002 (Superbike), Tommy in 2004 & 2005 (Supersport), and Roger in 2007 (Supersport).
In 2003, Nicky had the opportunity to switch to MotoGP and was crowned MotoGP World Champion in 2006.
Throughout that time, Earl and Rose have become a fixture at the track, and Earl has become a fan favorite because of his charm, humor, and approach-ability at races. Kathleen has commented that Earl is “just as famous as my brothers.”
In 2010, Earl was diagnosed with throat cancer, which he beat with the help of his family and an amazing team of doctors. After a lengthy recuperation, Earl was right back at the track!
Earl released a book on August 7th 2014, entitled The First Family of Racing, which chronicles the Hayden tradition of family, faith, and racing.
Earl and Rose are still happily married and just welcomed their sixth grand baby in July.
The rest of the Class of 2015 includes: Marion Cooper, Vine Grove, KY; Dallas Jones, Beechmont, KY; Jim Ruth, Morehead, KY; Jerry Decker, Valley Station, KY; Pat Freels, Island, KY; and Dickie Ogles, Bowling Green, KY. Read their bios here.