Wounded MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo
qualified just 0.277s from pole at Laguna Seca on Saturday.
On a day of ultra-close lap times Lorenzo was left sixth on the grid, but it is the Factory Yamaha star's physical condition - after twice undergoing surgery on a broken collarbone - which is likely to prove the limiting factor in the grand prix.
Lorenzo knows the 32-lap race will be a grueling challenge. However, with the aid of painkillers, the Spaniard believes his condition will compare favorably with Assen, where he claimed fifth place just two days after the original collarbone break.
"I felt better physically in qualifying than in the last free practice so I pushed a lot and made some good laps," said Lorenzo, who underwent surgery for a second time just one week ago.
"Maybe I could do one or two tenths faster with a perfect lap and be in the first row, but the position is ok. The important thing is I didn't crash and maybe tomorrow will be even better.
"It's a very hard track, almost all the braking zones are not completely straight so I struggle on the shoulder. It's a very long race with 32 laps so maybe with some painkillers I can be better than at Assen.
"If I have a good start and the riders in front of me don't than maybe I can pass one or two riders. But if that doesn't happen and I keep in sixth position it will be difficult because they are perfect under braking. The important thing is not to take many risks and see how the race [develops]."
Lorenzo will start the race eleven points behind title leader Marc Marquez and nine behind the rookie's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. Marquez, starting second, is likely to be out of reach of Lorenzo, but Pedrosa - who cracked his collarbone last weekend - will start one place behind.
"Jorge's feeling better and better so let's see tomorrow if he can resist the pain for 32 laps," said team manager Wilco Zeelenberg.