- Associated Press - Saturday, April 12, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Taking off his helmet after yet another dominating run, Marc Marquez shook off the sweat, flashed an easy grin and looked every bit like a rider who owns the track.

And why shouldn’t he? No one has come close to the Spaniard this week at the Circuit of the Americas, the site of his first career MotoGP victory and where he’ll start from the pole Sunday in the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Marquez capped two days of blistering runs in practice and qualifying on his Honda, posting his fastest time of 2 minutes, 2.773 seconds on his final lap Saturday. Repsol Honda teammate and countryman Dani Pedrosa will start second.

“I feel so good on the bike, (but) tomorrow is the most important,” Marquez said.

Honda owns the front of the starting grid. German Stefan Bradl of LCR Honda will start third. Bradl briefly led the opener in Qatar last month before crashing out in the ninth lap.

Marquez’s Texas victory a year ago launched a brilliant rookie season in MotoGP, as he won seven times and finished on the podium 17 overall in winning the world championship. His pole position and victory here at age 20 made him the youngest pole sitter and winner in the history of motorcycle racing’s top level.

Even a fractured leg in the off-season hardly seems to have slowed him down.

Marquez was injured in a training accident, but recovered in time to win in Qatar, outdueling former world champion Valentino Rossi through a thrilling finish. It was a physical struggle, however, and Marquez acknowledged he took pain killers to numb his aching leg.

Judging by his pace this week, that discomfort seems behind him now. Marquez said this week the leg has felt stronger every day.

“The leg is much better. I drove without pain killer this week (but) tomorrow I will take pain killer before the race. Just in case,” he said.

Marquez said he expects Pedrosa, who finished second here last year, to challenge him Sunday. Pedrosa started in the No. 2 spot in 2013 and slipped ahead of Marquez in the elevated first turn and led for 12 laps.

“Today we did good in qualifying. We got the front row which is important on this track. The first turn is so tight,” Pedrosa said.

The rest of the field seemed resigned this week to concede the race to the Honda riders on a track that seems tailor-made to their engines with its fast straights and acceleration out of the hairpin turns. Other riders on the grid have struggled to explain how they can possibly keep up.

“It looks like the Hondas are strong here but behind me are the four Yamahas,” Bradl said. “If you make one mistake here …. Physically, it’s a long race track.”

Marquez said he’ll take any advantage he can get. There will be plenty of other tracks to race that will favor his opponents.

“We will arrive on another track and they will be better than us,” Marquez said. “For now, we will use that advantage.”

The Austin race is the first of two in the U.S. this season with the Indianapolis Grand Prix Aug. 8-10. MotoGP dropped its race at Laguna Seca in California this season after a nine-year run.

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