The 2013 AMA Pro Flat Track presented by J&P Cycles Grand National Championship season amps it up another notch tomorrow as The Rolling Thunder Show heads to Thunder Valley for the Peoria Motorcycle Club-hosted round 7 at the Peoria TT.
In what is gearing up to be another great day of racing at the long-time event on the series' calendar, 8-Time Peoria TT winner Henry Wiles, the '09-'10 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Singles Series Champion, leads the field into Peoria with a big 'X' on his back as he tries to make it a record-setting ninth win in-a-row. With six different winners for each of the first six events of the season in the Expert-ranked class, Hammerin' Hank could possibly be another winner for the season. With his current 3rd-place in the overall standings, Henry could make a big jump up the standings with another win tomorrow.
Needless to say, there are a big handful of riders that are hoping to break that string of eight-straight wins established last year by The Hammer, which tied him with Chris 'The Prince of Peoria' Carr for the most wins in-a-row at the fabled facility.
Among them include defending 2012 AMA Grand National Champion Jared Mees, who comes off a monster 2nd-place finish at last weekend's Castle Rock TT after earlier in the evening pitching his #1 Montgomeryville Cycle Honda into the ground and knocking his shoulder out of socket. The Jammer made a superman recovery after popping it back into place and fighting for the podium in what can only be viewed as a ride that champions are made of after nearly suffering another blow to the defense of his title, after earlier in the season breaking his arm and missing the Hagerstown round due to those injuries. Mees has long wanted to knock the reigning Peoria champ off of the top rung of the podium at Peoria, and if his physical ability allows him, will be looking to make that happen tomorrow afternoon.
Bryan Smith, who along with his Crosley/Howerton Honda team, got his best-ever finish in a Grand National TT event last week at Castle Rock with a superb 6th-place finish, which also allowed him to move into the 2nd-place overall spot in the championship hunt, 27 points behind series leader Brad Baker (111-84.) Baker, who is having a career year with a win at Hagerstown on the Dodge Brothers XR and a finish of no worse than 5th-place in the first six rounds of the season, will also be looking to step atop the top rung of the podium and increase his lead in the series standings. And The Bullet and his Specialty Fabrication Honda are always in the running during the Singles Series events on the circuit's calendar as shown by his monster rides earlier in the season at Daytona I&II and last week's 5th-place effort in his home state.
Sammy Halbert, who has owned the Castle Rock event the previous three seasons and has always run strong at Peoria, had an off-night last weekend in his home state. But knowing The Slammer that won't make his efforts tomorrow any different than what he has produced the last three years at Peoria, having posted finishes of 3rd, 3rd and 5th-place the last three seasons in Thunder Valley. Look for Sammy and his Fredericktown Yamaha to be in the mix for the podium spots.
Local favorite Rob Pearson finally broke through to win on his home track last month during the Steve Nace Racing All-Star round, and has always run strong during the Grand National events, but will he have what it takes to bring the Iowa-based Weirbach Racing Honda team it's first AMA Grand National win at Peoria tomorrow?
Jeffrey Carver, Jr., took the win at Castle Rock last Saturday, and the third year Expert now knows the taste of victory as a top-ranked rider in The Rolling Thunder Show and also could be considered among those to knock The Hammer off of his record-setting quest. Will the 2010 Pro Singles Champion have what it takes for the second week in-a-row?
New Zanotti Racing signee and former AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year, Steve Bonsey, should also be considered a threat after taking a hard-fought 3rd-place last weekend at Castle Rock and putting on a text book pass during his heat race that was also a move that racing legends are made of. Bonsey has proved in the last couple of off-seasons he has what it takes on the 450s as well as the Twins rides (#80 has two AMA Grand National wins under his belt at Calistoga and Tucson) while riding Zanotti-prepped bikes in the Gene Romero WCFTS events.
Also look for early-season points leader and Daytona Short Track II winner Brandon Robinson to turn it around on his TJ Burnett Farms Kawasaki. Although admittedly the TT events have never been his strong suit, missing the event at Castle Rock last weekend was a big blow to his title hopes and dropped him a couple more spots in the overall standings.
And although there are several other riders that could make their mark tomorrow at Peoria (including second year Expert, Briar Bauman, who had 2nd-place all but locked up and was going for the win when he crashed out at Castle Rock), or at least run very strongly, the one at the top of that list is former Zanotti rider and '10-'11 AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson.
After announcing just before last weekend's event at Castle Rock that he was splitting from the powerhouse Zanotti Racing team, Johnson took part in the TT event in Washington while riding a Brown's Cycle Honda. Scheduled to take part in tomorrow's Peoria event aboard a Parkinson Brothers ride, the real big news is Jake's signing with the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports team for the remainder of the series schedule as a team mate to Henry Wiles on the potent Ducati. Of course, Jake has some great finishes at Peoria, so before he gets to try out that new ride on the slick red Ducs at Indy in another week's time, he will also be looking to be in the mix again tomorrow after a lackluster (for him!) finish of 17th in Washington State.
In the shot above from round 14 of the 2011 season at the Peoria TT, the Grand National main event is ready to go as front row gets their last minute adjustments before heading out on a sighting lap to get ready for the 25-lap National main in Thunder Valley.
(L-R) Bryan Smith gets some help from his Dad, Barry on his #42 Fasthog.com Honda CRF450R, Sammy Halbert snugs on his helmet straps as his brother and tuner Andy holds the #7 Fredericktown Yamaha YZ450F, Rob Pearson gets a grip on his #27 Matt Reecy Racing Yamaha, Jake Johnson is his usual picture of calm on the #1 Zanotti Racing Honda, Jared Mees (just out of picture) has his #9 Montgomeryville Cycle Honda steadied and readied by his then-tuner Brent Armbruster, and Henry Wiles concentrates heavily on the #17 Don's Kawasaki KX450F while Will Fulford of The Fast and Dirty.com makes some last second adjustments to his video equipment.
With the weather only calling for a 20% chance of showers tomorrow, hopefully the early season Midwest rain outs and postponements are behind us.
If you are in the area, the Peoria TT is a must-see event on the season and one that should surely be on any racing fan's bucket list. But if you can't make it, follow along with AMA Pro Flat Track's Live Timing & Scoring and Live Streaming, and also be sure to tune into Miriam Deitcher's always excellent event coverage on her Flat Track Live page to stay in the know throughout the day's events.
Be sure and check out AMA Pro Flat Track's official preview release below for tomorrow's event, as first practice is scheduled to roll off at 11:30 ET/10:30 CT in Peoria. You don't want to miss a thing as the greatest racing series on two wheels in the world heads to the Peoria TT for round 7 of the 2013 AMA Pro Flat Track presented by J&P Cycles Grand National Championship season.
AMA Pro Flat Track presented by J&P Cycles Visits Peoria for Round 7
AMA Pro Flat Track presented by J&P Cycles is a national motorcycle racing series in North America and is considered one of the oldest forms of motorcycle racing. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, the Series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track racing in the world. The 2013 schedule consists of rounds on the country's finest flat track courses. For more information on AMA Pro Flat Track presented by J&P Cycles, please visit www.amaproracing.com/ft.
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com
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AMA Pro Racing Communications, (386) 492-1014, firstname.lastname@example.org