Roger Hayden will not compete in the 2009 Daytona 200 after being granted a leave of absence by the Monster Energy Kawasaki race team.
Mike Preston, Kawasaki Road Racing manager, says the leave is due to personal reasons.
“Roger is a valued member of the extended Kawasaki family, and the relationship is one of mutual respect and understanding. We look forward to him rejoining the team as soon as possible,” says Preston.
Former Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookie Cup racer Leandro Mercado will fill in for Hayden to join Jamie Hacking in riding the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R in the historic race. The 17-year-old from Argentina finished third in the 2008 AMA U.S. Rookies Cup with two wins and six podium results.
“It’s great to see such immense talent at a young age,” says Preston. “Leandro definitely shows an understanding of the sport and I think he will fit right in with our team.”
Mercado, who is scheduled to compete in the 2009 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, will wear the number 95 in the Daytona 200.
“I’m really looking forward to riding my first Daytona 200,” says Mercado. “The ZX-6R is very powerful and I know I can do well with this team behind me.”
Kawasaki has posted two consecutive one-two podium finishes at the Daytona 200 and swapping Hayden for Mercado might make it harder to finish one-two again. Mercado only has to look to his new teammate to know that goal is within reach; Hacking finished third in his Daytona 200 debut on his way to winning the 1998 AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year award.