A review of Earl Hayden's new book, The First Family of Racing.
Earl Hayden wrote a book, and you all need to read it.
It's not explosive. It's not overly dramatic. This is not a bombshell, not a mudslinging memoir of heartbreak and intrigue, and not a fairy tale. The First Family of Racing (currently $15 on Amazon) is the story of a family that had no advantages but a heap of talent and each other, and got where they wanted to go by good old-fashioned hard work. And where they wanted to go was the very top of one of the hardest sports in the world.
The Hayden boys tell stories at the book launch. (Photo by Pete Hitzeman)
If you follow motorcycle racing at all, you're already familiar with the story of the Brothers Hayden. Tommy, Nicky and Roger have been turning heads and winning races all over the country and the world since they were in diapers, culminating in Nicky's 2006 MotoGP world championship. The image of Nicky's first GP win in 2005 at Laguna Seca is burned into the memory of every American race fan. The Hayden brothers developed a devoted following not only because of their success, but because of their personality. Quite unlike many of their European counterparts, they have always been approachable, amiable, and very, very funny. They're real people, despite their lifetimes of superlative success, and utterly devoted to their family, even more than racing.
To find out how they got to where they are, look no further than their parents, Earl and Rose Hayden. The two of them have become paddock fixtures over the past two decades, to the point where Earl is asked for his autograph as often as the boys. His storytelling is the stuff of campfire legend, and comes through the pages of the book such that you can't help but read it with his inimitable Kentucky twang in mind.
Earl survey's Nicky's special edition Arai, which he was to wear at the IndyGP before being sidelined after wrist surgery. (Photo by Pete Hitzeman)
The First Family of Racing is Earl's memoir, told in his lighthearted, rambling style, and interspersed with chapters from each of the five Hayden kids, plus Rose. It's a detailed account of how some country boys done good, as well as a guide to raising elite athletes, and great kids.
It's a story of total dedication of two people to the success of their children. They needed a place to practice their riding every day, so Earl built them a track in the back yard. The girls decided to take up tennis, so Earl built them a tennis court. If there was a race in Texas one weekend, Earl would drive through the night on Friday, help the boys race all weekend, then drive home through the night on Sunday to have them back in school on Monday morning.
This is a book worth reading precisely because it is such a departure from the 24-hour news cycle would have you believe is normal. It tells, with a healthy serving of southern charm, how good people can do well, even in a cutthroat business like motorcycle racing.
Perhaps most importantly, all of Earl's proceeds from the book are going to support a local Owensboro charity. The St. Joseph's Peace Mission for Children is an emergency shelter for abused kids, providing them with food, shelter and skills training.
The fastest family on two wheels. (Photo by Pete Hitzeman)