Henry Wiles was the favorite coming into this year’s Peoria TT, but this time around he was on a new bike leaving at least a glimmer of hope for his competition. Wiles proved that his Kawasaki KX450F was up to the task and he earned his fourth straight TT victory in a hard-fought win over AMA Grand National Singles points leader Jake Johnson, on the factory Suzuki. Early race leader Joe Kopp finished third on a Honda.
The picture-perfect day brought out nearly 17,000 fans - the second largest crowd in Peoria’s history. They witnessed an action- packed final that saw four different riders battling for the lead, two red flags and a nine-lap dash in the end to determine the winner. Wiles overcame all the obstacles and ran a clean race to keep the crown of Peoria for yet another year.
Kopp led early before JR Schnabel passed him when Kopp went off line. Schnabel crashed on the main straightaway in front of the entire field shortly after being passed by Wiles bringing out a red flag. The race was red flagged a second time when Matt Weidman hit the ground in turn one. Both Schnabel and Weidman were able to make the restarts.
Wiles kept his cool throughout all the commotion and led from lap 10 to the finish of the 25-lap final, holding off a serious challenge by Johnson throughout a good part of the second half of the race.
“It feels great to come back win the national here after the rainout last year and win it in front of this kind of crowd,” Wiles said. “I got some major competition this time around, but I was able to keep my concentration level high and turn in consistent laps. This is one of the races that everyone wants to win and getting my fourth straight Peoria TT is unbelievable.”
Wiles becomes only the second rider in the 61-year history of the race to win four straight Peoria TT Nationals. It also marks the first victory for Kawasaki in the prestigious race.
Jake Johnson goes to the final GNC Singles round at the Springfield (Ill.) Short Track in two weeks in a great position to win back the Singles title. His archrival in the series and last year’s champ Ken Coolbeth failed to qualify at Peoria. Johnson leads Wiles by 17 points and needs only a 12th-place finish or better in Springfield to clinch the championship.
Springfield will be a busy place over the Labor Day weekend (Aug. 30-Sept. 1). In addition to the Short Track on Saturday, the Illinois State Fairgrounds will also host two races on the Mile - the traditional Springfield Mile on Sunday and the Memorial Day weekend rainout make-up race on Monday.