“Fast” Eddie Hayden
In 1968, having a paper route in your neighborhood was a normal, admiral way to make some money for a teenager. Yet no one would ever see this as an avenue toward becoming a local short track hero, but that is exactly what happened to Edward Michael Hayden. Eddie always had to stop and admire the racecars he would see at one of the houses on his route. He was mesmerized by the sight of it. One day, he worked up the courage to go up to the car and check it out, and was then approached by the car owner, Rhoada Berry. Once his curiosity was discovered, Eddie practically became part of the family. He then met Rhoada’s son, Dennis, and the two boys soon became inseparable best friends. They learned to drive a stick shift, driving up and down the road. Eddie began to lend a hand at the shop, and then started attending races at Auto City Speedway helping with all facets of fielding the family’s racecar for driver, Len Baldwin. Eddie was absolutely fascinated with this sport. This was the beginning of 2 illustrious racing careers as Dennis went on to win numerous features and titles, including 3 straight Iceman Series Championships in the 90’s.
Eddie wasted no time and by age 16, with help from the Hayden Family, had put together his first racecar, a 65 Chevelle. “ 7 nights, 7 radiators”, is how Eddie has described his humble beginnings. It took him a couple of years to hone his skills, but the first of 580 checkered flags came in 1973, at age 18, driving a Ford Mustang. The next season, he won 13 of his 141 career feature wins. Eddie’s feature victories have come at over 10 different race tracks, both dirt and asphalt. He has competed on almost every Michigan short track throughout his career, successfully driving in different divisions from basic street stocks, to Super Late Models. He has competed against the best in the business. Jay Woolworth, Steve Sauve, Kris Patterson, Frank Sedar, Bob Kingen, Tom Maier, Ed Howe, Tommy Bowles, and Dave Kuhlman are just a few Hall of Fame drivers that have finished behind “The Fast One”, at one time or another. One of Eddie’s favorite features wins was when he made a last lap pass of Indy 500 winner, Rodger Ward, in 1977 at Auto City. Other notable highlights include finishing in the Top 5 in points at 3 different racetracks for 7 straight seasons (1976-82 Auto City, Dixie, Standish). Two Track Championships. Winning the first Mini Mudslinger for Late models at Auto City in 1979. 27 Feature wins in 1981. Holding the LLM track record at Dixie from 1980 until 1992. Pulling off the sweep, Fast time, Heat win, and Feature win, 4 nights in a row at Standish in 1995 in a LLM.
Eddie’s ability to be consistent, finish races, and not abuse his equipment made him a wanted commodity among some of the best car owners. Bill Davis and Jim Duncan are just a couple of the many car owners to hire Eddie as their pilot. To be able to bring a lesser car to the finish, and sometimes even victory lane, was one of Eddie’sproudest accomplishments. But whenever Eddie wasn’t driving for someone else, he was driving his own equipment. Eddie has made numerous sacrifices just for the opportunity to get to the track to compete throughout his career. Soldiering through a divorce, helping raise his three children, Julia, Johnny, and Eddie Jr., and maintaining employment, kept Eddie from competing for a season or two through his 37 year career. But the passion to race never exited his daily thoughts. After trying to retire from racing in 2001, Eddie’s 2 sons renewed his energy as they wanted to follow his footsteps. Eddie wrenched on the vehicles, and relayed his experiences, as he watched his kids enjoy the same sport that he has excelled at for years. While Eddie Jr. proudly went off to defend our country, Dad was the crew chief and owner as Johnny brought home the 2005 Thunder Truck Track Championship at Auto City, one year after Eddie helped his brother Kenny’s son, Kyle, win the same Championship.
You can still watch Fast Eddie Hayden in 2009 as he will be wheeling his hot rod around the 1/4 mile at Auto City most Saturday nights, looking to add some more wins to his resume, and with hopes of making a few races at other neighboring facilities. His fan base is still unbelievably strong everywhere he goes, as he has touched the hearts of thousands with his friendly demeanor, and willingness to sign every autograph, and talk to anyone who craves his attention. His son Johnny will be competing when he can, as he is starting his own family. His nephew Curtis is fast becoming a contender. His other nephew, Kyle, will be running a few ASA races, and a limited regular schedule, as the Hayden Family continues to add to the legacy that Eddie started 37 years ago. Just to give you an idea of the impact the Hayden Family (Eddie, his brothers Kenny and Bobby) have made at their home track, Auto City Speedway, there is a street sign on the pole at the entrance to the pits, from the grandstands, that reads, “Hayden Road”.
His 141 Feature wins, and 580 checkered flags, are his most impressive statistics. (current as of March 2009). No better tribute can capture the impact that he has had on this racing community.