Fresh from his first Ducati podium last weekend at Indianapolis, Ducati has announced that Nicky Hayden will sign a one-year extension to his current contract and remain alongside Casey Stoner in its factory team for the 2010 MotoGP World Championship.
After six years, three wins, 25 podiums and a world championship with Repsol Honda, Hayden moved to Ducati this season on a two-year contract, with the second-year 'option' to be decided by Ducati in early September.
The American began the year badly with a big accident in qualifying at Qatar and was then taken out on lap one at Motegi, leaving him with a best race finish of twelfth after five rounds.
But just as he was being pigeon-holed as the latest high-profile rider to be flummoxed by the Desmosedici, Hayden began making steady progress up the order - helped by a new crew chief at round five and set-up progress soon after.
Hayden has finished in the top eight at the last six rounds, with the exception of the Donington Park rain gamble, culminating in third place last weekend at Indianapolis.
Crucially, in terms of his Ducati future, that made Hayden the only Desmosedici rider other than Stoner to stand on the rostrum this season, and he has also outpaced Mika Kallio during the Finn's two rounds as a replacement for Stoner.
But that's not to say that Hayden's ride hasn't been seriously under threat. Ducati pushed hard to tempt Jorge Lorenzo from Yamaha and were then in contact with Dani Pedrosa.
Nevertheless, on the eve of the factory's second home of the season, at Misano this weekend, Ducati announced that it will take up its option on Hayden for 2010.
"The confirmation of Nicky is the right reward to a rider who has shown to perfectly embody the frame of mind that characterises Ducati - Passion, Determination and Commitment." said Claudio Domenicali, Ducati Motor Holding general manager.
"We have always considered Nicky to be an important asset to the Ducati 2010 strategy and we are very happy that he will remain in the Ducati Marlboro Team.
"His progression through the season has been constant up to the podium in Indianapolis and we are certain that the experience he has gained will be decisive for a 2010 season full of success."
Hayden is presently twelfth in the world championship, although the second best Ducati rider after Stoner, with 73 points to his credit. That compares with a full season total of 51 for his predecessor Marco Melandri.
"This has been a very good week and this news just adds to that," commented Hayden. "After the good result in Indy, now to renew the deal with Ducati is exactly what I wanted. I'm very happy.
"I always had faith and believed that we could achieve good results. I'm excited for these last five races of the 09 season, and if you look at the progression we have made from the start of the season to the middle, hopefully we will continue this through to the end.
"I just wish to say a big thanks to all the guys who made this happen, especially everybody in Ducati as well as all our sponsors and I'm sure I'll be able to do a good job next year and to continue to build with, and be part of, the Ducati family."
One of the Kentuckian's remaining goals will be to try and reach at least seventh in the standings (currently 15 points ahead of him) since that is where Loris Capirossi finished in 2007 - and remains the best end-of-year result by a Ducati rider other than Stoner since the 800cc class began.
Hayden's new deal means that Pedrosa is 99.9% certain to remain at Repsol Honda. Honda has already announced that it intends to keep both Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, but they are officially yet to sign.
Indeed, it is possible that Pedrosa has now reached a final agreement with Honda, prompting Ducati to confirm Hayden.
2010 will mark only the second season since Ducati entered MotoGP in 2003 that it has kept the same rider line-up for two consecutive seasons.
2010 MotoGP World Championship - confirmed line-up:
1.Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha
2.Jorge Lorenzo SPA Fiat Yamaha
3.Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro
4.Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro
5.Loris Capirossi ITA Rizla Suzuki
6.Alvaro Bautista SPA Rizla Suzuki*
7.Marco Melandri ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini
8.Marco Simoncelli ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini*
9.Hector Barbera SPA Aspar Ducati*