MONTEREY, CA, JULY 24 – Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies qualified fifth fastest for his home grand prix with teammate Colin Edwards directly behind him on the grid for Sunday’s Red Bull U.S Grand Prix.Spies made a bid for a front row starting spot only to come up short by a scant .062 secs. His best hope at moving up came late in the session, but he was balked when Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing Ducati) crashed in front of him in the Corkscrew. That was the difference between the front and second rows. Still, he’s less than a tenth of a second out of third place and eager to start his first home grand prix as a Yamaha rider.”It’s a little frustrating to be so close to my first front row, but I’m still really happy with fifth position,” he said. “The last stint was good and I was actually on a front row lap for sure at the end. I was a tenth quicker and then Kallio unfortunately crashed at the Corkscrew. I saw a big dust cloud and yellow flags were being waved. I was really scared that someone was on the downhill part because you can’t see going in there. I wanted to play it safe and I lost a tenth there for sure and that definitely kept me off the front row.”I’m happy being in the middle of row two and besides Casey and Lorenzo, I’m in the battle for the podium and that’s where I want to be,” Spies said.Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner are clearly the class of the field. Lorenzo was on pole at 1:20.978, with Stoner second at 1:21.169. Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest, nearly half a second behind. Spies knows that winning is a tall order, but his second MotoGP podium isn’t out of the question.”I couldn’t be happier with that and if I get a good start and stay out of trouble then I have the pace to fight for the podium,” the Texan, who scored his first podium at Silverstone, said. “For the win, those guys are going way too fast now. You never give up, but they are on another level right now from everybody. I’ll ride as hard as I can and have some fun in front of the home fans. It’s been great to come home and see lots of support and hopefully I can give them something to cheer tomorrow.”Edwards was annoyed at being stuck around seventh or eighth position, despite the hard work the team’s put in. He was losing time in the crucial T-4, which begins just after the Corkscrew and includes the sweeping, downhill Rainey Curve, the quick turn ten, and the hard braking turn 11 that leads onto the front straight.”I’ve been riding really hard all weekend and giving it my all for the home fans, but I seem to be stuck around seventh and eighth position,” Edwards said. “I’m not sure what else I can do, because I’m putting in my maximum effort and feel good on the bike. The goal is to try and get away with the bunch from (Andrea) Dovizioso down, because the top two are way ahead of the rest of us. I need to find some speed in the final section where I lose a bit too much time and now we’ve got to figure out which rear tire to use in the race. I was convinced yesterday that I’d run the hard option front and rear. But now I’m considering the soft rear. There’s quite a big difference in lap time but I’m wondering how good the soft tire will be at the end of the race.”
Spies Fifth, Edwards Eighth
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.