DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 9, 2017)
– American Flat Track will complete its run of four races in 15 days with the longest running event in the championship’s history — the legendary Peoria TT — on Sunday, August 13, in Peoria, Ill.
Fans will line the hills surrounding the Peoria Motorcycle Club Race Park’s natural amphitheater, just as they have since 1947. And with all due respect to a pair of evolving title fights and their chief participants as they prepare to battle down the home stretch, the main attraction for those throngs of race fans is undoubtedly Henry Wiles (No. 17 DPC Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650).
The modern master of the Peoria TT, Wiles enters looking to extend one of the most remarkable win streaks in all of motorsports. A win this Sunday would mark Wiles’ 13th in succession in Peoria.
Wiles shattered “Prince of Peoria” Chris Carr’s record for consecutive wins at the venue a full five years ago. A 13th victory for Wiles would place the two TT-specialists on equal terms in all-time Peoria TT wins.
However, despite Wiles’ incredible record, another triumph is no guarantee. This year will present a new challenge to Wiles and his rivals as it represents the first time in more than two decades that the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines class will negotiate the 0.6-mile circuit and its notorious jump aboard twin-cylinder machinery. In addition to the learning curve with the Twins racing at one of the sport’s legendary venues, there are some redesign elements masterminded by Carr himself to make the track more conducive to Twins.
“Definitely that place is a little bit tricky,” Wiles said. “It’s going to be a little bit slower now with the jump and everything, but it will be fun. We’re riding these twin motorcycles there. We’re ushering in a new era of American Flat Track and I’m really excited about it.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun there. I’m just going to give my best… That’s all I can do. In the past, our best has been good enough to get the win.”
There’s also Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750) to consider. The championship leader is in spectacular form, having demonstrated the pace to push for victory at literally every race this season as evidenced by his seven wins and 12 podiums — including a victory at the DAYTONA TT and a runner-up at the Buffalo Chip TT.
Mees, who currently holds a 36-point championship advantage, said, “Obviously the guy to beat there is Wiles. We’re not on singles, we’re on twins, but he’s still going to be fast as hell. He’s got a really good setup motorcycle for there. He’s good. We’ll go there and give her our best. The nice thing is we don’t actually have to beat him, but I really, really want to beat him.”
Any number of other riders could establish themselves as contenders up front as well. Briar Bauman (No. 14 Zanotti Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) provided Wiles with a stiff challenge at last weekend’s Buffalo Chip TT and ultimately won the race following Wiles’ misfortune.
Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) and Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07) have both been knocking on the door for race wins this season and have their own podium histories at Peoria.
And don’t sleep on Jake Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R). Johnson has finished on the box at the Peoria TT multiple times over the years. More recently, he flashed his TT skills aboard the factory Harley twin with a third-place run at the Buffalo Chip TT.
The Peoria TT hasn’t traditionally been overly kind to Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750). However, the second-ranked Smith is in need of a strong result to prevent Mees from stretching out his advantage much further this weekend. To his credit, Smith has proven formidable on TT circuits aboard the Indian twin in 2017, coming home second to Mees at the season-opening DAYTONA TT.
While the vast majority of the field is likely relieved that TT dominator Hayden Gillim (No. 95 Cycle World Suzuki RMZ 450) will miss Peoria, AFT Singles championship leader Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) probably wishes he would be there to potentially take 25 points off the board.
Gillim’s absence this weekend opens the door for the likes of second-ranked Brandon Price (No. 92 Brandon Price Racing backed by Parkinson Brother’s Racing/DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki Honda CRF450R) and third-ranked Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Estenson Racing Yamaha YZ450F).
It won’t be easy though. Texter’s second-place finish at the Harley-Davidson Black Hills Half-Mile bolstered her championship drive going into Peoria TT. Even if her TT woes continue, Price would need a podium result of any kind — and Carlile a victory — to springboard ahead of Texter in the points standings heading into the season’s final four races.
Meanwhile, TT standouts Jesse Janisch (No. 132 West Bend Harley-Davidson-backed Yamaha YZ450F), Wyatt Anderson (No. 120 Waters Autobody Racing KTM 450 SX-F), and Dan Bromley (No. 62 Big Momma & Daddy Deep Pockets Racing KTM450 SX-F) are all well poised to step forward and claim their first victory of the season at the Peoria TT.