INDIANAPOLIS--American Ben Spies came up one position short from a perfect weekend in a home MotoGP, finishing second to Spain's Dani Pedrosa in the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Sunday.
Spies was rewarded for his outstanding first season in the world's premier motorcycle road racing series on Friday with a promotion to the factory Fiat Yamaha team, where he will replace seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi next season. Rossi is moving to Ducati's factory team.
The 26-year-old from Longview, Texas, followed with a stunning, pole-winning performance Saturday, his first in MotoGP. Spies led the opening six laps before Pedrosa, riding for the factory Repsol Honda team and passed him on the front straight of the 2.621-mile, 16-turn course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Spies chased Pedrosa, holding second place the entire way to the checkered flag in the 28-lap race. He was 3.575 seconds behind at the finish.
It was Spies' best result in MotoGP and equaled Nicky Hayden's runner-up as the best American finish in the three years the race has been held in Indianapolis. It was also the third straight year an American was on the podium. Hayden, of Owensboro, Ky., was third last season.
Spies joined the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team this season after winning the World Superbike title for Yamaha in 2009. He was the American Motorcyclist Association's Superbike champion from 2006 to 2008.
The Tech 3 team receives support from Yamaha, but its motorcycles are a year or two behind the factory team. All the manufacturers operate under the same system and under MotoGP rules, so rookies aren't allowed to move directly into factory motorcycles.
Spies has made the most of the situation with Tech 3. He was third at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix in his fifth race of 2010 and also has finished fourth twice. Spies' fast and mistake-free ride Sunday to second, the highest finish by a rookie this season, was yet another verification of his talent.
"They all mean a lot," Spies said in recapping his weekend. "I think it starts with Friday, to be able to be a rider that Yamaha picked to be on the factory team is huge. To be in MotoGP, first of all, is a huge thing and then to know there's only a couple of people that can ride for a factory team and you're one of them, that's big. And I think that kind of stemmed a lot into how the weekend went, the confidence that was taken from that and just transformed into Saturday's result and today's (Sunday) result.
"For it all to happen at the home Grand Prix, there's nothing that can top it unless we won today. But, we've got to keep our feet on the ground and I think we're taking positive steps every weekend."
Spies, who finished sixth in the MotoGP at Indianapolis as a wild-card entry in 2008, raced on the soft version of the tires supplied by Bridgestone.
"We kind of went for glory," Spies explained. "I couldn't be quick enough on the hard tire. I couldn't quite do some of the things I wanted to do with the bike to make the lap time. The soft tire we knew was going to go down at the end, but we were hoping to be in a position where we could manage that at the end.
"Fortunately, we got a good start. I was able to go early on and go good and then just manage it at the end of the race and it proved to be a good choice. We can't complain, you know. We came in and did better than I thought we were going to do. We didn't set the world on fire, but we had a good pace. It just wasn't fast enough when Dani came by. I tried as hard as I could and didn't make too many mistakes. But in the end, we had to ride 100 percent the whole time with only a three-second gap (to third place Jorge Lorenzo).
"So, I'm happy for all the friends and family and fans that are here to get a second in the American Grand Prix for the first season."
Hayden, the last American to win the MotoGP World Championship in 2006, finished sixth. He also had a productive weekend off the track, signing a deal to stay with Ducati for the next two seasons.
Hayden started on the outside of the three-wide front row in the 17-rider field, and slid to seventh by the seventh lap. But teammate Casey Stoner crashed on the next lap and Hayden stayed sixth to the finish. Hayden was hampered by losing a knee slider, a small but crucial piece of equipment because it helps riders support the bike at full lean angle, early in the race.
"I still can't believe what happened, I am so disappointed," Hayden said. "I was being careful over the first few laps because in that heat the track was very greasy. I lost the front slightly on the third lap and caught my left knee on a drain cover on one of the curbs, right where the knee slider attaches to the Velcro. There are so many left-hand corners here...from that point on I had to take it really steady. I couldn't push anywhere and finished up with a huge hole in my leathers. I am incredibly disappointed because we had the pace to put in a performance today."
Colin Edwards, Spies' teammate and the third American in the race, had mechanical problems and dropped out of the race with 16 laps completed.
Pedrosa's victory was his third of the season and 11th of his MotoGP career. He fell at Indianapolis while leading last season.
"So many crashes (Sunday) because of the bumps and track temperature," Pedrosa said. "If you miss one line in one corner, you can be immediately on the ground. It was very important to be focused in every corner and make no mistake with the bumps, especially at the end when the tires were more damaged.
"When you go over the bumps, the bike is shaking a little bit more and it was more difficult to control. But even with that, I was able to stay in the front, not crash this time and finish the race on top."
Pedrosa is second in the championship with six races remaining, a whopping 68 points behind Lorenzo. Spies moved up to sixth in the championship, one point in front of Hayden.
"To be doing what we're doing, not looking at (being) the top American, anything like that, or top satellite bike, just to be in the first year (in MotoGP) and jumping over some of the hurdles we've had, I didn't think it would be going this well," Spies said. "Two podiums. You know, if you had told me we would have had one at the end of the first season, I would have been happy with that and took my money.
"It's a lot of confidence, too, to know that next year what's happening, to have Yamaha behind me. It's knowing that they believe in me and they want me on the factory bike, you have a lot more confidence in it. It just takes pressure off you, you believe in yourself. You push and you push and having the American fans here, they wanted something big. We tried as hard as we could. We didn't win today, but to get on the podium, I'm happy with that. I think everybody that's with me is."
Spies and Hayden will return next year for the fourth MotoGP at Indianapolis, IMS and the MotoGP organizing body announced Friday.