Everywhere you looked at Circuit of The Americas, Nicky Hayden was present: replica helmets, hats, and T-shirts, even tattoos, all bearing the 2006 MotoGP world champion's signature number 69. For the second year in a row, the grassy berm overlooking turn 18 was decorated with a gigantic red, white, and blue 69. Hayden's title-winning 990cc Honda RC211V was also on display in the paddock for all to enjoy.

British rider Tom Booth-Amos raced with Hayden's number on his KTM. "When I heard the #69 was being retired in MotoGP," he wrote on his Twitter account. "I was a bit sad because I hoped one day I would get to honor Nicky by running it. I contacted the Hayden family and asked their permission to run Nicky's #69 this weekend in Moto3, and they kindly gave their blessing."

On Friday, MotoGP commercial-rights holder Dorna permanently retired the Kentucky native's number from Grand Prix roadracing's premier class. Hayden's immediate family—parents Earl and Rose, brothers Tommy and Roger, and sisters Jenny and Kathleen—as well as his fiancée, Jackie Marin, attended the ceremony, as did many past and present riders, including fellow American world champions Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, and Freddie Spencer.

"It's a great pleasure to have Nicky's family here," Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta began. "Since we lost him, we've thought this is something we must do. He was something special for all of us during his time with us. He touched everything here, his relationship with all of us was fantastic.

“For us to have the honor to retire the number 69 is something very important, and I’m very proud to do it today. It’s a great honor for the championship to have someone such as Nicky as part of our history.”

Jorge Viega
“When Dorna proposed withdrawing this magic number, we didn’t hesitate,” FIM president Jorge Viegas (left) said. “There are some riders, regardless of the number of titles, who mean something special. All of us suffer from the disease of loving motorcycle racing, and some will remain in our hearts forever. Nicky Hayden is one of them.”Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

Tommy Hayden spoke on behalf of the family. “First of all, I’d just like to thank everyone for joining us here, everyone who’s showed up to celebrate this special occasion with us,” he said. “For sure, we’d like to thank Carmelo and all of Dorna for this event and for all their support pretty much since Nicky’s accident; they’ve gone out of their way in every way you can imagine.

“Nicky loved MotoGP, and I think he loved it for a reason because there are a lot of good people there, starting at the top. Nicky had a lot of success on track, but I think we all agree he made just as big an impact off track in everyone’s lives, those of his friends and family and all of his fans. That’s something, as a family, we’re most proud of.

“The number 69 is a special number in our family,” he added. “Before my brothers and sisters were even born, my dad raced with that number, and there were other family members even before us my dad helped and supported who always raced with the number 69. My sister raced when she was younger, my brother Roger, myself, always raced with the number 69 throughout our childhood years and growing up racing.

“Nicky carried the number through his whole career. It’s very special and, like I said, it has a lot of meaning so to have it retired from MotoGP—the pinnacle of the sport—as you can imagine, it means a lot to us. So, again, I would just like to thank everyone for coming out, all your support, and for helping us to keep Nicky’s legacy alive.”

Marc Márquez
Marc Márquez, seated beside Hayden’s fiancée, Jackie Marin, was one of six Grand Prix riders, including former Honda and Ducati teammate Valentino Rossi, who shared their favorite memories of the “Kentucky Kid” during Thursday’s pre-event MotoGP press conference at Circuit of The Americas.Dorna

Ezpeleta and FIM President Jorge Viegas presented Earl Hayden with a stars-and-stripes-themed award shaped like a 69, the front of which carried the following inscription:

In recognition of Nicky Hayden’s participation in the FIM MotoGP World Championship

Nicky Hayden rose to the pinnacle of motorcycle racing and won the MotoGP World Championship in 2006, taking three Grand Prix wins, 28 podiums, and taking part in 218 Grands Prix over the course of an incredible career.

Upon his departure from the paddock at the end of 2015, the “Kentucky Kid” was named a MotoGP Legend and moved to WorldSBK, where he also took the number 69 to the top step of the podium.

Hayden’s number is the sixth to be formally removed from Grand Prix roadracing competition: 48, 58, and 74 were withdrawn after the competition-related deaths of Shoya Tomizawa, Marco Simoncelli, and Daijiro Kato; 34 and 65 were retired as a tribute to the on-track achievements of world champions Schwantz and Loris Capirossi.

Later that evening, Dorna Communications Director Ignacio Sagnier organized a remarkable photograph on “Hayden Hill.” Hayden’s factory Honda was transported to the top of the embankment where family, friends, members of the paddock, track marshals, and fans gathered to document the historic moment.

Freddie Spencer
Three-time world champion Freddie Spencer embraces Nicky Hayden’s father, Earl. An AMA Supersport and Superbike champion, Hayden won the MotoGP world title in 2006 and was honored as a MotoGP Legend in 2015. He died on May 22, 2017, from injuries sustained in a collision with a car while riding his bicycle in Italy. Hayden was 35 years old.Dorna

Andrea Dovizioso, Mission Winnow Ducati: I met Nicky at the beginning of my career in the world championship. I had a lot of moments with Nicky when I was very young racing 125cc and 250cc, and also, all the years we did in Ducati. One funny moment: Sometimes all the riders from HRC had to be in Motegi during the winter. At that event in Japan, we took a taxi together—me, my manager, and Nicky. He sat in front. The taxi drivers in Motegi are so slow. He was pushing the driver a lot to be faster because it took more than three hours to arrive at the airport. The way he played was always really nice—American style, but relaxed. It was nice to spend time with him.

Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda Team: I have two special moments. One was 2008 in the team presentation of Repsol. I was 15 years old, and he brought the birthday cake; it was really nice. The other one, in 2016 in Australia, we shared a box because Dani [Pedrosa] was injured. We did a party after the race, and it was a really nice because he was singing on the stage with his girlfriend. We were also singing together. It was the best memory.

Jack Miller, Pramac Racing: I have a few favorite memories of Nicky, but I think the best one was when I first came in the paddock in 2014. In Moto3, you don't really have anywhere to go and sit in the paddock, and Nicky and Colin [Edwards], the Americans, would always have their doors open and allowed me to come in and hang out with them, which I thought was pretty cool. Nicky was always open and a friendly guy. He was a joy to be around.

Álex Rins, Team Suzuki Ecstar: I had one very good memory with him in 2012. It was my first year in the world championship, in Moto3. It was my first pole position, in Jerez, and he was sitting behind me. He was laughing a lot at my English, which was very bad; now I improve a little bit. It was really funny.

Joe Roberts, American Racing KTM: Nicky was one of my greatest heroes growing up. The first race I went to was when he won in 2005 at Laguna Seca. Really, the biggest inspiration to be a motorcycle racer was him. I got to ride with Nicky at a flat track a couple years ago. That was really special for me. I was so stoked about it because I've always wanted to ride flat track with him. It was such an awesome experience. I'll always remember that I got to spin some laps with him around that track.

Valentino Rossi, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP: I also have a lot of memories of Nicky. I remember very well when I saw him for the first time. In 2003. I was in the Repsol Honda team. I remember we were waiting for him in the Tokyo station. I was with Uccio [Salucci] and some Japanese from Honda. He arrived in American style; it was like he was coming from another planet. We took a train, and Nicky started to ask a lot of things. He spoke in "American," which was very difficult for me to understand, and he asked a lot of questions: "Why a train? How long is the day?" I said, "Nicky, one piece of advice: Don't make a lot of questions, and hope that it finishes as soon as possible." He agreed with me.