Valentino Rossi has virtually written off his hopes of victory in the American MotoGP race after he qualified in sixth place for the 32-lap clash at Laguna Seca.
The Italian was bumped to the back of the second row by a late charge from home favourite Ben Spies as he ended with a best time of 1.21.688.
That was only 0.009s slower than Texan Spies but Rossi’s pace was 0.710s off team-mate Jorge Lorenzo’s blistering speed at the top of the leaderboard.
Rossi, who broke his right leg in Mugello just seven weeks ago, once again found the nature of the spectacular Laguna Seca track tough on his weakened right leg and recovering right shoulder.
The 31-year-old, who finished in a fantastic fourth position on his comeback race in Germany last weekend, said: "I have a problem with my right shoulder and also the other shoulder because I have to compensate for the lack of power in my right shoulder. I am pushing with the left and in the end I don't have enough power to stop the bike like I want.
"This is the biggest problem. But my leg has improved a lot since yesterday and I have less pain. I hope to be able to make 32 laps with a good pace. The position is not fantastic but I'm happy with our work and especially at the end I improved the setting a lot and I am closer to the top and have a quite good rhythm.
"But Stoner and Lorenzo will be very tough. They are clearly faster than everybody but the other guys are not so far so I think if I am able to gain in two or three points, especially down the hill where I am not very fast, it is possible to make a good race."
The nine-times world champion said it was not a surprise to see Lorenzo and Stoner with such a big advantage after the pair finished well clear of Andrea Dovizioso in third place.
Rossi added: “They work very well and when you do this lap time it is not luck, you can’t invent this lap time. You have to have great confidence with the bike and have good experience and be very fit.
"Casey is always very fast here in Laguna and Jorge has demonstrated that he is fast everywhere, so it will be very difficult for us tomorrow. But the important thing for me is to make another very good race and try to do some good lap times.”