Nicky had moved gradually from dirt to asphalt, being signed by Honda America at 16 and competing in his first full road racing season in 1998, where he finished fourth overall in both the AMA 750 Supersport and 600 Supersport categories.

In 1999, at eighteen years of age, he became the youngest ever AMA 600 Supersport Champion, fighting for the title against his brother Tommy. In the same year he also participated in 12 of the 18 Grand National dirt track rounds, taking the Rookie of the Year title in that series.

In 2000, still with Honda, he progressed to the premier AMA Superbike category and finished second overall, just five points behind Mat Mladin. In 2001 he closed the season in third place while in 2002, as well as winning the prestigious Daytona 2000, he became the youngest ever AMA Superbike Champion at 21 years and two weeks old.



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