You can call it 'Chasin' Hank' or 'smelling the blood in the water' but which ever way you choose to look at it, come Sunday, August 12 at the Peoria TT the other 17 riders in the field are most likely going to be doing the same thing as what the four men above are trying to do, and that is to unseat Henry Wiles in his quest to become the winningest rider at the fabled track just west of downtown Peoria, Illinois.
Having won every race held at the longest-running event on the schedule since the 2004-running of the Peoria TT, Henry Wiles has established himself hands down to be the one to beat. And that seems to be his moniker in the State of Illinois, as Wiles has also won the last four-straight Springfield Short Track rounds to add to his seven-straight in Peoria just up the road.
Round 9 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season this Sunday will see the gathering of the masses as fans for miles around will converge on the amphitheater-styled track set into the hills of what is truly Thunder Valley and will be on-hand to witness the 65th running of this great event.
Some of the other greats that should be on-hand come Sunday are shown in the shot above, taken on the first lap of the National main event at Peoria on August 21 during round 14 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season as the riders squirt into turn 2 before the run up the hill to the jump.
With Henry Wiles already out-front and ready to rabbit on the #17 Monster Energy Kawasaki/Jones Bros/Don's Kawasaki/Arai-sponsored KX450F, eventual '11 AMA Grand National Singles Champion Sammy Halbert is breathing heavily down Wiles' neck. Halbert would end the day in the 3rd-place spot on his #7 Woody Kyle Racing/Fredericktown Yamaha/AGV/Kings Kustoms-backed YZ450F and will be one of the odds-on favorites to unseat the reigning champ of Peoria, fresh off of his Castle Rock TT win last Saturday.
Jared Mees on the #9 Lucas Oil/National Cycle/Rogers Lake/Montgomeryville Cycle Center-sponsored Honda CRF450R chased Wiles all day long last year, but came up just over 1.5 seconds behind him in the end. Hot off of his 2nd-place finish at Castle Rock, a 3rd-place finish at the Springfield TT and winning the Hagerstown Half-Mile earlier in the season, Jammin' Jared will be looking to move up a spot this Sunday and add to his overall championship series points lead.
Morton, IL. resident Rob 'Bugs' Pearson took a season-best 5th-place finish last year at the TT on his #27 Matt Reecy Racing/RPM/Woody Kyle Racing/Moose-backed Yamaha, and after uncharacteristically missing the Castle Rock TT main event, will be hot as ever to make up for lost time.
Bryan Smith on his #42 FastHog.com/American H-D/Rockysonline.com/Boughner Racing-sponsored Honda will also be looking to move up after finishing in the 8th-place spot last time around at Peoria, and suffering a flat tire at Castle Rock that forced him into a 17th-place finish after winning the weekend prior at the Sacramento Mile. Bryan readily admits Peoria is not one of his strong suits, but nonetheless he should be up towards the front this Sunday when the green flag flies.
Add to this list 2-Time and defending AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson, still searching for his first win of the 2012 season on the #1 Zanotti Racing mounts, but who also hasn't finished off of the podium in the last five events since the Springfield TT. Never count out the man with the #1 plate on his bike or on the back of his leathers/jersey. And Jersey Jake is a determined man.
Matt Weidman is healed from his Lima get-off and will be looking to make up for missing Lima, Hagerstown and the Sacto Mile to add to his first-ever win at Daytona back in March. Brad Baker, Briar Bauman, JD Beach, Jeffrey Carver, Jr. and a handful of others all will try to make it hard on the rest of the field in trying to win their first-ever National main event this Sunday at Peoria.
So if your'e in the area--or not--head to the Peoria TT to see what will undoubtedly be one of THE best races of the season in The Rolling Thunder Show, the greatest racing series on wheels in the world!
And you can read the full preview below thanks to the great folks of the 'blue crew' at AMA Pro Flat Track.
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 8, 2012) - Following a quick swing up the west coast, the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil stars head into the second half of the 2012 season. The return to the Midwest and the venerable Peoria TT mark race nine of the 16 race series.
The Peoria Motorcycle Club has hosted Grand National motorcycle races on their club grounds, PMC Race Park, since 1947. For the first time in many years there is only one active rider to have tasted victory in Thunder Valley, Henry Wiles (Don's Kawasaki).
Even though Wiles has struggled this year, he did post a solid win at the Springfield TT on Memorial Day Weekend. Wiles has won the Peoria TT race seven consecutive years, with only a rain out in 2007 breaking his momentum. Even with his seven wins, Wiles is well off Chris Carr's impressive total of 13 wins.
Henry Wiles #17 runs away from the other 17 riders in the 25-lap National main event held at the Peoria TT during round 14 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season. Hammerin' Hank won by just over 1.5 seconds to runner-up Jared Mees after almost losing it on the jump in the final laps of the event. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
The top performers in the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship points standings have all had their fair share of success at Peoria too, and with Wiles' seemingly 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 had his share of success at Peoria finishing third to Wiles and Mees the last two years. Halbert has had to come from behind both years and no doubt better starts may be the key to better results for the rider sitting third in points.
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. "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 (Rod Lake Racing / USC Kawasaki) and his teammate JD Beach (USC Kawasaki / Red Bull) 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.
Past AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Champions Brad Baker (The Brothers Powersports) and Jeffrey Carver Jr. (Carver's BBQ) are both solid TT riders and are having very good results this year. Daytona winner Matt Weidman is still working his way back after his Lima injuries, but feels up to the grueling 25 lap Peoria TT.
AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles
The AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles race is a wide open affair, but current series points leader Gerit Callies (Fun Mart Cycles) has had some success at Peoria, credited with a second last year. Callies currently holds a 12 point lead over Ryan Wells, who will be riding at his first Peoria National.
Adam Bushman has not fared well in August at Peoria recording two 14th place finishes and one hospital ride, but a dominating spring non-national win in June has left the Midwest CNC / Power Bar backed rider looking forward to the 2012 edition of Peoria.
Jason Isennock (Highs Dairy Stores / Foard Racing), Jake Shoemaker (Montgomeryville Cycle) and Stephen Vanderkuur (Parkinson Brothers Racing) are all top-five performers this year with excellent chances of making their own Peoria history.
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