Nicky Hayden doesn't like to disappoint his fans, especially on home soil.

But the proud American, a former double winner at Laguna Seca, knew the 2011 event would be a tough one - given Ducati's tough start to the season.

The maximum he could realistically achieve was to try and be the top Ducati, which he managed in three of the five track sessions prior to the race.

A crash in qualifying left Hayden ninth on the grid, and he quickly moved ahead of Aspar's Hector Barbera and spent the rest of the 32 laps in close contact with team-mate Valentino Rossi's GP11.1.

"I got a decent start, but I didn't get to go with that second group like I had hoped. It was kind of like the Sachsenring: a good battle with Valentino, but 30 seconds behind the front," said Hayden.

Beating seven time MotoGP champion Rossi would have been some consolation for Hayden, but the #69 claimed it was simply too risky given the positions they were in.

"Vale was no faster than me, but he's a racer: he doesn't make mistakes and give you anything," said Hayden.

"A couple of times I thought I might be able to go up the inside, but I'm not just going to close my eyes and knock us both down trying for sixth place.

"People who think he's not trying are crazy. I saw his right foot come off the peg a couple of times when he almost went down."

Hayden crossed the finish line in seventh, less than one-second behind the Italian.

"We'll take two weeks off, regroup and go to Brno. Now is no time to be negative. I believe in my team and Ducati, and I really think we're still going to have a good season," Hayden declared.

Hayden chose to race the older GP11 Ducati, having made his debut on the GP11.1 in Friday practice.