After a month-long hiatus the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship will be back in action this Saturday, April 16, at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, Illinois. Many Grand National fans consider this indoor short track race a showdown between Henry Wiles and JD Beach.
It is something like the immovable object meets the unstoppable force. Over the last couple of years Wiles has been the rider to beat on the 450s, be it short track or TT. In 2009 and 2010 Wiles won seven out of the ten Short Track and TT Grand Nationals. Take Daytona out of the equation and he won everything.
On the other hand Beach probably has more laps on the track inside the Southern Illinois Center than anyone else and he cleaned house at the big News Years Ethan Gillim Memorial Races this winter, winning five of the six pro races against a deep field of riders.
While Beach has been the master at the track in regional races, he understands the challenge he faces this weekend.
“It’s not going to be a walk in the park for me even though I’ve done so many laps there,” Beach said. “I think Henry is going to be up there, but there are a lot of people who’ve been riding good. I mean you’ve got Sammy [Halbert] who won both races at Daytona, you’ve got Brad Baker, you’ve got Jeffrey [Carver], Johnny Lewis, Jake [Johnson], [Kenny] Coolbeth… I mean it seems everyone has stepped their game up and I think this year we might see a lot of different riders win.”
Beach admits he’s has as good of a chance as anyone to win Saturday evening, but he’s not predicting that just because he has home track advantage that he’s the rider to beat.
“Come Saturday night everyone is going to be there with one goal in mind and that’s to win,” he said. “I may have a little bit of an advantage in practice, but come race time it’s going to be time to go [for everyone].”
Beach will be learning a new motorcycle. He’s been on a Honda for the last couple of seasons, but this year is racing for Gary Booher’s USC Racing Kawasaki. He’ll be on a KX450F at Du Quoin and he’s riding a USC Kawasaki in the GNC Twins races too.
“I don’t have the bike perfect yet, so we have a little work to do,” Beach admitted.
Wiles too is working with new equipment riding the fuel-injected Kawasaki instead of the carbureted model he’s ridden in the past.
“It’s a little different and we’re still in a transition stage on getting the most out of it,” Wiles said. “But I’ve figured out a lot about it since Daytona and we should be good to go this weekend.”
Wiles has heard the talk of the showdown between him and Beach at Du Quion, but he doesn’t necessarily see things that way.
“Well, I think he’ll [Beach] definitely be tough,” Wiles said. “He has a lot of laps in that little arena there’s no doubt about that. Between him and Carver they’ve got more laps down there than anybody, but I don’t now if that matters when everybody shows up and brings their A game.”
Wiles thinks the biggest factor will be how the track is prepped.
“JD is really good when that track gets a certain way,” Wiles said, going on to explain he means when the racing surface is hard and slick. “If they make the track tacky and racy then I think it will level the playing field for everybody. I hope they keep the track prepped well. This is a national and they need to prepare the track so it’s not a one-line track like it is in the races they have in the winter down there.”
Wiles also believes that JD may find it a little tough with all the Grand National stars gathered together at one track.
“You know, you’re racing against all the best, not just one or two guys who have national level talent,” Wiles explained. “We’re all as good or better than the guys he’s been racing down there. Instead of facing one or two other guys with good speed, he’s going to facing ten guys who can run his pace. So if you get behind you’re not going to be able to work your way to the front like you could in the other class [Pro Singles]. I’m excited to go racing and I really think Du Quoin is going to be an awesome race.”