Henry Wiles will attempt to win an eighth consecutive Peoria TT on Sunday as the AMA Grand National Championship rolls into the historic Peoria Motorcycle Club Race Park with Wiles the only former winner in the field.
The Peoria TT will mark the ninth round of the 16-round AMA Grand National Championship and it happens at a race site that is truly historic with the Peoria Motorcycle Club hosting a National since 1947.
Even though Wiles has struggled this year, he did win the Springfield TT on Memorial Day and he comes to Peoria with seven straight wins with only a rainout in 2007 breaking up his momentum. Even with his seven wins, Wiles is well off Chris Carr’s impressive total of 13 wins.
The top performers in the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship points standings have also had their fair share of success at Peoria. And with Wiles perhaps off his game, they smell blood in the water.
Current points leader Jared Mees (Rogers Racing/Montgomeryville Honda) has finished second to Wiles the last two years. Having dominated in Peoria at the spring non-National race, he is primed to win his first AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Expert Peoria TT. Last week’s Castle Rock TT went well, but he fell just short of a win.
“After fast qualifying and winning my heat, I was really looking forward to winning Castle Rock,” said Mees. “We will take second and move onto Peoria. I’m really looking forward to Peoria – there is a guy I really want to beat there.”
Castle Rock TT winner Sammy Halbert (Fredericktown Yamaha) has finished third to Wiles and Mees the last two years.
Defending AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) had his best Peoria result in 2008 when he finished second to Wiles, but he is also coming off a good third-place finish last week and is sitting second in the points. The ever-consistent Johnson is looking for his third consecutive Grand National Championship and his first win of the 2012 season.
“We are all on our game right now. We are going to have to sit around and wait for somebody to make a mistake,” said Johnson. “I was hoping it would get a little bit easier, but it’s not looking that way. I look at the year I’ve had and I haven’t won any races. Since Daytona I haven’t been off the podium. With six straight races on the podium and I’m still in second place. It’s tough. It will be about who can prevent any damage along the way. I’ll have to stay consistent.”
The veterans are not the only players in the sand box, though. The pre-entry list is full of young and old challengers alike. Top performer in the 2012 Saddlemen Rookie of the Year chase, Briar Bauman and his teammate JD Beach both showed promise in the Pro Singles race with Beach winning in 2009 and 2010. Bauman won last year on the track only to have contaminated fuel ruin his day.