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Nicky Hayden in the Driver’s Seat

So, Nicky Hayden goes down in history as the winner of the 200th “premier class” race for Honda (combining results in 500 GP and MotoGP) by taking the Assen Dutch TT last weekend. Could Nicky Hayden be on the verge of another historical achievement? How about becoming the first man to dethrone Valentino Rossi in the MotoGP championship? Rossi has won every championship since the inception of the MotoGP class.

Certainly, Rossi has helped Hayden, and everyone else this year with his uncharacteristically poor results (including tire failure and a mechanical DNF). You can’t take anything away from Nicky, however. He is the most consistent man in MotoGP now — he is almost an automatic podium finisher, and he now has two victories.

Hayden has a full 42 points in hand over second-place teammate Dani Pedrosa, and the only other riders near Pedrosa in points are each nursing injuries. This would include Loris Capirossi (Ducati), Rossi (Yamaha) and Marco Melandri (Honda). With eight races in the books, and nine remaining in the championship, all Hayden needs to do is continue with the consistency he has shown over the past year and continue to score podium finishes (an occasional win wouldn’t hurt).

Hayden could still blow it, but you would have to say that the championship is his to lose at this point. Particularly, with Rossi’s injuries (including a painful fracture in his throttle hand), it will be difficult for his rivals to make up more than 40 points over the course of the next nine races. Of course, as we all know, anything can happen in racing.

Does this mean Honda will keep Hayden in 2007? Not necessarily. Hayden is unsigned for 2007, and rumors persist that Yamaha, and other teams, are greatly interested in the 24 year old (part of the continuing emphasis on a “youth movement” in MotoGP). If Hayden rides as defending champion in 2007, it only raises his stock further.