A three-day crowd of 105,817 witnessed a stunning Independence Day weekend upset performance at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. Red Bull Rider Dani Pedrosa registered a shock victory that reintroduced the Spaniard's intentions to chase the 2009 MotoGP World Championship crown.
Despite his status as one of the world's elite pilots, Pedrosa still managed to catch his hugely talented rivals by surprise in sunny California at the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The lion's share of the pre-race attention was centered on the incomparable Valentino Rossi, '07 GP king Casey Stoner, and the fast-emerging Jorge Lorenzo, the trio entering the weekend tightly-packed atop the points standings after combining to score every race win of the developing Grand Prix season.
The three owned the spotlight during the lead-up to the much-anticipated contest, as Lorenzo claimed the pole on July 4th despite spectacularly crashing at the end of the session, leaving his Sunday participation very much in doubt.
Ducati Marlboro star Stoner did much the same, qualifying third despite a huge highside of his own moments later that also saw him stretchered away from qualifying.
With the Australian also suffering from chronic fatigue and arm pump issues, Rossi, the reigning world champion and current title leader, was widely-tipped to score a breakaway victory and up his American win streak to three, adding to his popular '07 Laguna and Indianapolis triumphs.
However, Pedrosa would have none of that, powering into the lead at the start from the second row aboard his RC212V Honda V4. He then not only survived the intense pressure being applied by the three aces behind him, but thrived under it, steadily opening up a gap on the trio of acclaimed superstars.
Stoner's condition ultimately forced him to fade and accept fourth, one position in front of his American teammate, Laguna Seca master Nicky Hayden, who thrilled the home crowd with his best performance since switching to the Italian Ducati outfit in 2009.
That left Rossi and the courageous Lorenzo to make late comeback attempts. Lorenzo even managed to make an attempt on Rossi for second with Pedrosa a little further down his sights, but it took everything in the Spanish hero's bag of tricks to avoid crashing while diving up the inside of the Italian. He managed to stay upright and salvage a gritty third in what was earlier looking like a potential DNS.
Rossi then stepped up to deliver the fireworks in the end, and he sliced Pedrosa's once multi-second lead into almost nothing in the waning moments of the contest, nearly catching the Honda runner unaware in the race's final corner.
Pedrosa survived the scare, however, and stormed to his first victory of a 2009 season that has been hindered by injuries and set-up woes.
The arrival of the Red Bull Rider on the top step of the podium may also mark the opening of a four-way battle rather than a three-way affair at the front of the pack in what's developing into one of the most unpredictable MotoGP seasons in recent memory.
"This is a fantastic win for us and it’s a great feeling after such a long time without a victory," Pedrosa enthused.
"The start to the season has been really difficult and actually it’s been tough since Sachsenring last year because I’ve had a lot of injuries and I haven’t been able to ride at 100 percent for a long time, or train properly. But my team and Honda never gave up; I’d like to thank everyone who’s been working really hard to help me get back to this position.”
Red Bull Rider Ben Bostrom made it double joy at the Red Bull event, claiming a dramatic victory in the day's AMA Pro Daytona SportBike clash. The Californian made just his second appearance in the class, riding a Yamaha USA R6 SportBike racer in addition to his usual American Superbike duties, and once again proved to be the class of the middleweight field.
The 2007 AMA Supersport champion, Bostrom backed up his season-opening SportBike triumph in the Daytona 200 by edging Aprilia rider Chaz Davies on Sunday at Laguna Seca.
Bostrom was joined on the podium by Graves Motorsports Yamaha's rising star Josh Herrin, which made it two Red Bull Riders in the SportBike top three.
AMA Superbike legend Mat Mladin concluded the weekend by picking up his tenth AMA Pro American Superbike victory of the season, tracking down young Suzuki teammate Blake Young to steal away the win, with Jordan Suzuki pilot Aaron Yates rounding out the podium.
Fortunately, American fans whose appetites were whet by the incredible MotoGP action won't have to wait long for another opportunity to view the global sensation on their home turf. The Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix is just around the corner, taking place at the world-renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 28-30.