Carlos Checa is good around Miller Motorsports Park. It suits his style and it suits his bike. Going into Superpole, he was a firm favourite to be on the front row, along with top qualifiers Jakub Smrz and Tom Sykes. With the morning qualifying starting off cold and damp and the afternoon practice being just as cold, if not as damp, it would be safe to assume that the faster riders in those sessions would do equally as well in Superpole.
While this was indeed the case with the top three, we were given a masterclass in pulling a pole position out of nowhere on spent tyres by Jakub Smrz. It looked like positions were settled with Checa ahead of Sykes in the last few minutes where everyone was either on an in lap or already in the pits and the chequered flag was unfurled. Kuba, as he's known by his team, had used all his qualifiers and went out on a used race tyre for one last lap and even in the earlier sectors where he was on pace to beat pole, his bike was sliding both tyres as he pushed, implying that he would not finish a lap at that pace.
Instead, we saw the fastest lap of the weekend, banked at the last minute by a true master of qualifying.
Carlos Checa had an admirable day and, if qualifying and history are anything to go by, his opponents had better not let him get away quickly. He can easily convert a good start from 2nd on the grid to his third double victory in Utah. He was even generous enough to tow his team-mate Davide Giugliano to the last slot on the front row, putting Tom Sykes in the middle of an Althea Ducati sandwich.
One man who can keep Checa at bay tomorrow is Jonathan Rea. In this afternoon's free practice session, he was the first man to put a string of successively faster laps together, whereas Checa was the last man to do the same. If racing follows qualifying, Rea leads early and gets caught in the latter third by Checa passing Melandri.
Sylvain Guintoli was decent enough to make yesterday's prediction of four Ducatis in the top 8 come true, while Max Biaggi and Eugene Laverty locked out the BMWs and Suzukis, although the Suzukis were locked out by Camier having some terrible tyre choices in QP2 and Hopkins being slowest in Superpole 1.
Marco Melandri had the fastest bike in a straight line, but unfortunately for his qualifying, there are a few corners at Miller Motorsports Park, and this kept him out of the top 8, while his team mate Leon Haslam was kept out of the top 12 by having a puncture on his first Superpole lap and not getting his remaining tyres to work for him.
With no Supersport race this weekend, local viewers will be relying on the AMA bikes as support races, so we should hope none of them do themselves or the track serious injury, trying to prove themselves in front of an international audience.
Predictions? Checa ahead of Rea and Sykes, with Biaggi making a stealthy charge to the front pack towards the end. Maybe Leon Camier could make a convincing charge, too, along with Melandri and Smrz. The weather should be cold and dry, but the tyres should be ok as there are a lot of left and right turns, most with memorable American-sounding names.