2012 MotoGP title leader Jorge Lorenzo claimed his first pole since round two with a record breaking final lap at Laguna Seca on Saturday.
The Factory Yamaha star dominated provisional pole, but had been out-paced by reigning champion Casey Stoner with just minutes to go.
The Spaniard responded in style, fighting back from a slow first sector to seal his fourth consecutive US GP pole by 0.074s on his very final lap.
“I knew Casey and Dani were going to try and take pole but I really wanted it here in America so I tried my best for Yamaha,” said Lorenzo.
“I pushed to the limit, especially in the last corner, I was at full lean and opened the throttle really soon.
“In my first two tries for a perfect lap there was a lot of traffic so I had to wait for the right moment. The important thing is tomorrow, pole position is nice but anyway the race is what counts.”
Stoner's team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who trails Lorenzo by 19-points in the championship, will complete the front row.
“A great pole from Jorge, he's putting a lot of pressure on the Honda guys,” said Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli.
Lorenzo finished second to Stoner in last year's US Grand Prix and has been no lower than second in the eight races he has finished so far this year.
“We have a good pace and a good package to fight for victory tomorrow,” said team manager Wilco Zeelenberg. “We'll have to wait and see what the temperature is going to be as it's very cold in the morning then warms up a lot!”
Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies will start from fourth place after an accident.
A summer break follows Sunday's race, which is round ten of 18.