First riding on the dirt in his native USA, Hayden then continued his career on tarmac and was crowned AMA Supersport Champion in 1999. Next came the AMA Superbike crown in 2002 – becoming the youngest rider to achieve the feat – before a move to the MotoGP™ World Championship for 2003. He took two podiums that year, at Motegi and Phillip Island, as a rookie. More podiums followed in 2004 before Hayden took his first pole and Grand Prix victory at Laguna Seca in 2005. The following year, the “Kentucky Kid” became the MotoGP™ World Champion as he beat Valentino Rossi to the premier class crown, securing the title in the last round of the year in Valencia.
He moved to Ducati in 2009 and, later, the Aspar team, before racing his last full season in MotoGP™ in 2015. He was then inducted into the MotoGP™ World Championship Hall of Fame at the season finale in Valencia.