Nicky Hayden won the 2006 MotoGP World Championship yesterday. For those of you that follow ball sports instead of motor sports, allow me to fill you in. MotoGP is the top class of motorcycle racing in the world. In most civilized countries motorcycle racing is as popular as say, nacho cheese is here in the U.S.; so winning the championship is a big deal.
The championship came down to the final race yesterday in Valencia; Nicky led the championship points most of the season. His opposition, 7 time world champion Valentino Rossi had a number of mechanical problems and general bad luck that conspired to put him 50 points behind in the championship mid-season. Rossi fought back in the second half - two weeks ago in Portugal he was a mere 12 points behind Nicky.
What happened next absolutely stunned the motorcycle community. Nicky's own teammate - Spanish rider and former 250cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa T-Boned Nicky just a few laps into the race at Portugal, taking them both out of the race and erasing the 12 point lead for his teammate. Rossi pushed on to take second at Portugal, beat by literally inches by normally mid-pack Toni Elias. Which left Rossi 8 points ahead going into the final race at Valencia.
The stage was set for an epic battle, Nick had to finish several places ahead of Valentino to make up the 8 point deficit and win the championship. The record crowd at Valencia watched as Rossi and Hayden rubbed elbows at the start. Nick got an excellent start and worked his way to 2nd by lap 4, when Valentino uncharacteristically crashed out of 7th place. Rossi rejoined the race in 20th (last) place and fought his way back up to 13th. Meanwhile Nick stuck himself in 3rd place; fans held their breath for the remaining laps. Cameras showed both of Nicks parents with their fingers crossed for the last few laps. In the end, Nick finished 3rd and won the championship by a slim 5 points.
So mighty congratulations to the Kentucky Kid from Owensboro. Great job Nick!
For more information see Superbike Planet or Motorcycle Daily, and hey, why not watch the MotoGP championship next year?