Once again it was Henry Wiles on the top step of the podium at the Peoria Motorcycle Club. The No. 17 USC Racing Kawasaki KX450F rider extended his streak to 12-straight wins at this year’s 68th running of the Peoria TT on Sunday, Aug. 14. Wiles was on point to score a dominant win, crossing the line 9.471 seconds ahead of defending AMA Pro Flat Track champion Jared Mees. Joining the pair on the podium was Jake Johnson.
Although Wiles is out of contention for the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines championship, the Michigan rider headed into Peoria with a target on his back. Everyone wanted to dethrone the King of Peoria, so there had to be a bit of pressure on Wiles to keep that streak alive.
“Honestly, I didn’t really think about it,” Wiles said. “I was just trying to get my motorcycle together. We were still working on it yesterday.”
All that work paid off – his 12th straight win at the Peoria TT and his 17th-career TT win – further cemented his legacy in GNC1 record books as a TT specialist. And the importance of those record books and his legacy in the sport is not lost on Wiles. Especially when his name is attached with seven-time Grand National Champion Chris Carr who has one more win – a total of 13 – at Peoria.
“It feels awesome. It’s such a big accomplishment to just keep going straight here,” Wiles said. “Chris Carr, he technically didn’t do it ‘straight’ but he did it straight. Let’s not forget about that. Chris was the man here for so long. Technically, records are records and whatever but nobody’s fooling me. I know what’s going on and Chris is still the man here.
“But it does feel great for my team and for all of the fans here who are so welcoming. I really feel like I’m coming home to a great big family when I come here with how cool everybody is to me. I really appreciate that, because it could be totally the opposite and this would be not even close to as fun as what it is for me. So, what does it mean to me? There you go – It means a lot!”
Mees, running the No. 1 Montgomeryville Cycle Center Honda CRF450R, has that number one plate for a reason. He’s a fierce competitor and Mees was focused on dethroning Wiles for that coveted win at Peoria. Although he came up a bit short in second, the result was like a win after his rival Bryan Smith on the No. 42 Crosley/Howerton Kawasaki KX450F crashed out of the race. Smith’s finish moved Mees back into the GNC1 championship lead by 12 points.
“I noticed he went down (Bryan Smith),” Mees said. “Henry (Wiles) was just nonstop and I tried to push a little bit in the beginning and it looked like I maybe matched a couple of laps with him but then later in the race, my motorcycle was just a little difficult in a couple spots when it got choppy, as the night went on it got rougher. When I saw the five to go, I backed it way down, looked back and had a huge lead and was like, ‘You know what, there’s no catching Henry.’ He was the man today, there was no catching him. He was solid all day. This track suited his style and his setup, for sure. Last year it was a lot smoother and a little bit more of where you can get it on. This year was a little more technical and trudged. Hats off to Henry for making it 12 in-a-row. Tough competitor here and no matter how bad of a season he’s having, he seems to always put it together.”
Johnson was also looking for the win at Peoria, but the No. 5 Zanotti Racing Honda CRF450R rider struggled most of the day and had to advance through the Semi to make the Main. In the end, the Pennsylvania native was happy to get a podium finish.
“I’d rather be two more steps ahead,” Johnson said. “From where I came from today, I qualified bad. I failed to make the Heat Race and then I got through a Semi. To come from the third row to finish third, I’m pretty happy with that. I just have to thank my team for never giving up on me. It wasn’t looking good earlier today. It would’ve been easy to give up on me today, it was troubling but these guys kept working hard and I didn’t quit, so here we are.”
It might have been Wiles’ 12th-straight win at the Peoria TT, but in the GNC2 class it was Hayden Gillim’s first career win. The No. 69C Suzuki/Cycle World rider on a Suzuki RMZ450 held off Andrew Luker on the No. 11Z Sammy O Racing Honda CRF450R for a photo finish, one of closest national championship finishes in the club’s long and storied history.
“This is definitely one for the books,” Gillim said. “I’m just so happy with how everything is going right now. I can’t thank Suzuki and Cycle World enough for putting together an amazing program for me this year. I have been wanting to get a win since 2011 and it’s just awesome being up here. The last three or four laps I could hear them coming around the outside, but I thought maybe it was quick enough on the inside. But he (Andrew Luker) was making that outside work and he was able to get by me on the last lap. Over the jump I was a little bit quicker. I closed back in on him and then through the right-hander, he slowed up quite a bit and I knew that was my only shot for us. I took it and ran a little bit wide. I thought he was going to come underneath me, I saw his shadow there. He ran an amazing race, it’s just amazing to be on top.”
Completing the podium in the GNC2 class was Jesse Janisch on the No. 32L Nergia Energy Honda CRF450R.
Up next, AMA Pro Flat Track heads to upstate New York for the Central New York Half-Mile on Saturday, August 20, at the Rolling Wheels Raceway Park. Tickets can be purchased in advance at http://rollingwheelsthefasttrack.com/tickets.html.
Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines:
Harley-Davidson Pole Award: No. 17 Henry Wiles
McElroy Packaging Lucky 13 Award Winner: No. 17 Henry Wiles
MotoBatt Hard Charger Award Winner: No. 5 Jake Johnson
Öhlins Fastest Lap Award Winner: No. 17 Henry Wiles
Sunoco “Go The Distance” Award Leader: No. 5 Jake Johnson (327.29 miles completed)
Larry and Judy McElroy Rookie of the Race Award Winner: No. 51P Cole Zabala
Westside Truck Parts “Just off the Box” Award Winners: No. 20J Ben Lowe (4th), No. 20M Jacob Lehmann (5th)
Sunoco “Go The Distance” Award Leader: No. 36B Kolby Carlile (238.51 miles completed)