MONTEREY, CA, JULY 25 - Roger Lee Hayden had never been happier to finish 11th.A week after being asked to replace the injured Randy de Puniet on the LCR Honda, the Team Pedercini Kawasaki rider battled to 11th place in his home race, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.Hayden started slowly in the race, careful to bring the tires up to operating temperature before making an attack. His fastest lap was the eighth, when he went faster than he'd going in qualifying.He eventually found himself in the midst of an entertaining battle with Aleix Espargaro (Pramac Racing Ducati) and Alex de Angelis, the former Moto2 rider who was aboard the Interwetten Honda MotoGP bike in place of the injured Hiroshi Aoyama.The race would eventually come down to the replacements with Hayden determined to prevail. He attacked de Angelis two laps from the end, making a bold inside pass through the swooping downhill Rainey Curve. De Angelis came back at him more than once, but Hayden fended off each strike to finish 11th."That was a good race for me," Hayden said. "My race pace was pretty good and I hung in there and was kinda with the guys and then I dropped back two seconds and then I just got the feeling of the bike and put my head down and reeled in de Angelis and just stayed behind him and tried to make a pass and was just all over him and was looking for the right spot. And with about two laps to go, he got in the Corkscrew just a little bit hot and I made a run on him and passed him down into Rainey, on the inside. I had a lot more steam than he had, because I was pretty good through the Corkscrew. And then he came back by me in turn five, but he got in there a little bit too hot and I got to come back inside of him."Man, that was a good solid race for me. It was a lot of fun. The team was ecstatic. When I came in they were on the wall jumping up and down, so really fortunate for the opportunity and it was nice."De Puniet broke both bones in his lower left leg last weekend in Germany, but expects to be back at the end of the summer break in Brno. Hayden said he hasn't been told if he'll get a second ride on the bike."No, not yet," he said. "Randy plans on riding there, but if not I think that, the way they act, I'm on top of their list, especially after the way the weekend went. They're really happy I didn't try to come in here and be a superstar and tear up a bunch of bodywork. Just took things as they came. Got a good solid week for them. They're a single-rider team, got some points for them for the team championship, so they're really happy."

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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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