Here at Autoblog, we couldn't think of a better way to spend the 4th of July weekend than at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the fifth running of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. There was plenty of excitement during qualifying, with pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo being unseated from his bike not once but twice. With both Lorenzo and third place qualifier Casey Stoner being treated for injuries, everyone was betting that Valentino Rossi would take the checkered flag. Rossi won the race last year, and had just come off a historic 100th victory last week in Netherlands. There were also high hopes for American Nicky Hayden, who had his best qualifying of the season in the eighth spot. Follow the jump for the full race report, and check out our high-res gallery below.
Related Gallery2009 MotoGP Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
Dani Pedrosa, who has battled injury and misfortune for the last year, rose back to the top of the MotoGP podium with impressive fashion in capturing the 2009 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Red Bull-sponsored Pedrosa started fourth from the second row, but shot out of the start to take the lead and never give it up for the 32-lap race around the 11-turn, 2.2-mile track. Valentino Rossi, who was expected to defend his title race, moved from third to second and only made a real threat to Pedrosa on the last lap, when he closed the gap to .34 seconds at the checkered flag.
"I took it too slow the last lap," said Pedrosa, whose last win was June 8, 2008 at the Catalunya GP. "When I went into the last corner I saw his [Rossi] bike coming behind and I said maybe I was too slow, but fortunately I won the race."
After the race, Rossi claimed it was too risky for him to chance a last turn pass. "I was not at 100 percent today," said the Italian, who has 100 MotoGP wins in his career. "It was a great race and an important 20 points toward the championship."
Rossi's Fiat Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, completed the podium despite racing with shoulder separation and bruised foot injuries sustained from a nasty highside crash during Saturday's qualifying. Lorenzo at times turned the fastest laps and nearly overtook Rossi towards the end of the race in the same turn he crashed the day before, but he overran the turn and had to settle for third at the finish. Casey Stoner, the 2007 race winner, finished fourth after falling back from second position following the holeshot. He too was very sore from a highside crash suffered in qualifying.
American Nicky Hayden recorded best finish of the 2009 campaign with a solid fifth place run, thereby boosting his confidence heading into the second half of the season, his first with manufacturer Ducati.
"All year it has been so hard, and we come home and finally were able to get a good solid result," said Hayden, the 2005 and 2006 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix winner. "After winning this race twice, it's hard to get excited for fifth, but for what we've been through and how we started this season, I'm really happy. Hopefully, by the time we get to Indy [Red Bull Indianapolis GP] we will be ready for a little more,"
The day's results boosted Rossi's hold on the world championship standings to nine points over teammate Lorenzo and 16 points over Stoner. Pedrosa remains far back in fourth place, 59 points back from Rossi, but his win at Laguna Seca signals to the field that Pedrosa has found his winning ways again.
1. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 44:1.580
2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Fiat Yamaha, 44:1.924
3. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Fiat Yamaha, 44:3.506
4. Casey Stoner, Australia, Ducati Marlboro, 44:14.102
5. Nicky Hayden, United States, Ducati Marlboro, 44:23.243
6. Toni Elias, Spain, San Carlo Honda Gresini, 44:23.621
7. Colin Edwards, United States, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 44:31.781
8. Chris Vermeulen, Australia, Rizla Suzuki, 44:34.437
9. Randy de Puniet, France, LCR Honda, 44:41.905
10. Marco Melandri, Italy, Hayate Racing Team, 44:49.608
11. Alex de Angelis, Republic San Marino, San Carlo Honda Gresini, 44:50.390
12. Niccolo Canep, Italy, Pramac Racing, 45:20.111
Gabor Talmacsi, Hungary, Scot Racing Team, DNF
Loris Capirossi, Italy, Rizla Suzuki, DNF
Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Repsol Honda, DNF
Sete Gibernau, Spain, Grupo Francisco Hernando, DNF
James Toseland, Great Britain, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, DQ