MONTEREY, CA, JULY 24 - Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Ben Spies has been marked for a podium finish in the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix by one of the most respected minds in the paddock.Spies has spent his rookie MotoGP downplaying expectations at every turn and this weekend is no different. He admits the competition will be very strong, but at the Catalunya GP said he expected this would be his best finish of the season. Since he finished third at Silverstone, that means he expects to be second or first. He's not alone."I expect (Spies) to be on the podium here, if not a winner here this weekend," Jeremy Burgess, Valentino Rossi's Fiat Yamaha crew chief said earlier in the weekend. "I saw Nicky (Hayden) here that year (2005) when he just came." Hayden's first MotoGP win was in the 2005 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and he followed it with a win in 2006."The bikes at Laguna Seca don't make a hell of a lot of difference, between you and me," Burgess said. "You can come here on Friday afternoon and go 21.9 and still be going 21.9 on Sunday."A scan of last year's results proves Burgess's point. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa finished last year's Friday free practice with a time of 1:22.637 mins. His race pace was mostly in the low 1:22's, a very small difference. Rossi's Friday best was a 1:21.981 and his race pace was in the low to mid-1:22's."It's about being consistently fast at about that sort of pace. I think the local boys, as we saw with Colin (Edwards) in 2005," when he passed Rosi to finish second to Hayden,  "can do it. And they know where to pass. I know our guys have been here a bit more now. I think Ben will be looking forward to this one."In Thursday's pre-race news conference, where he shared the dais with, among others, Nicky Hayden, Spies was asked if being the top American was a concern."It's not so much for me trying to be the best American, you're at your home race and you want your best result for the season to come at your home race," he said. "Last weekend in Germany I was riding like I ride at every other track so every Sunday, every race, every rider on a MotoGP grid tries 110 percent. You hope everything comes together and your best result comes in your home grand prix. For me, it's not so much being the best American it's just trying to put everything together and giving a good result and that's all you can hope for."

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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.

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