DANI PEDROSA/Repsol Honda Team Honda made it look easy for his MotoGP victory Sunday at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He started fourth but took the lead almost immediately and never looked back. The Spaniard built up a commanding lead during the 32-lap race, before being hounded by a charging VALENTINO ROSSI/Fiat Yamaha Team Yamaha, who narrowed the margin from 3.3 to 0.334 seconds.

The current MotoGP champion and winner of last year’s Laguna Seca race was nearly sniffing Pedrosa’s tail pipe coming down the Corkscrew on the final lap in a last ditch effort to catch, pass and win. That was about the most drama in the otherwise uneventful race.

This was the first victory for Honda this season. Pedrosa turned the fastest race lap of 1:21.928, breaking the record of 1:22.488 set last year by CASEY STONER/Ducati Team Ducati.

It was an especially sweet victory for Pedrosa, who had crashed out early in the 2008 Laguna race, and then suffered with hip problems early this season. He said “I’m finally happy after a long, tough year.

Rossi said “I wasn’t strong enough in the first half of the race. But lap by lap I got better but couldn’t quite win. Try to make better next year.”

Polesitter JORGE LORENZO and Rossi’s teammate got snookered at the start and fell back to fifth place early on, and had to slowly work his way back up to finish third. Afterwards it was obvious his shoulder was hurting. He said “I did the best I could. I did manage to race in this condition. It was a very quick race.”

The ailing CASEY STONER/ Ducati Team Ducati had duked it out early on with Rossi for second, before being re-passed by Rossi and then Lorenzo, to finish fourth. He showed signs of fatigue and was nearly 12.5 seconds behind Lorenzo at the checkered flag. No doubt he is looking forward to medical testing Monday in an effort to diagnose his lingering exhausting malady.

American and local favorite, NICKY HAYDEN/Ducati Team Ducati started and finished fifth,  although he was passed early on and had to earn back his position. He was followed by TONI ELIAS/San Carlos Honda Gresini Honda, who finished sixth. The other Yankee driver, COLIN EDWARDS/Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha started and finished seventh

Eighth through eleventh were CHRIS VERMEULEN/Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki; RANDY DE PUNIET/LCR Honda MotoGP Honda; and ALEX DE ANGELIS/San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda.  MARCO MELANDRI/Hayate Racing Team. Bringing up the rear, some 1:18.531 behind Melandri was NICCOLO CANEPA/Pramac Racing. All twelve were on the lead lap.

Those not finishing were ANDREA DOVIZIOSO/Repsol Team Honda and, SETE GIBERNAU/Grupo Francisco Hernando; and GABOR TALMACSI/Scot Team all crashed out of contention but are unhurt. LORIS CAPIROSSI/Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Suzuki pitted and went to the garage.

JAMES TOSELAND/Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha jumped the start, was given a stop and go penalty, black flag and finally excluded from the event for not responding quickly enough to the initial penalty for the jumped start.

The weather was sunny and mild. The ambient temperatures were 72 degrees F/22C while the track was 107 F/42C.

The next round two weeks in Germany.