PEORIA, Ill. – Winning an event 10 times in a row might sound like it would get redundant, but for Henry Wiles, every victory, even No. 10, is sweet.
Wiles took the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship Expert Main checkered flag for the 10th consecutive Peoria TT, pacing runner-up Jared Mees by 1.811 seconds in Round 12 of the season on Sunday. But instead of calmly pulling up to the podium as if it was just another day in the office, Wiles celebrated with two hands in the air as he crossed the finish line, then treated the spectators by the track’s famous jump with a standup wheelie. Following the win, Wiles was emotional thinking about the memories he’s forged at Thunder Valley and how all 10 wins mean something special.
“It feels amazing to be able to win 10 in a row here at the Peoria TT,” Wiles said. “This place means so much to me. The race atmosphere, the fans here are always awesome in Peoria. If you haven’t seen this race, you’re missing a little piece of American history. … With the history I’ve had here, it means so much to me.”
Wiles, on his No. 17 Don’s Kawasaki machine, was the fast qualifier and won the Dash for Cash. He got out to a solid start in the Expert main, but the race was red flagged on the first lap due to an incident involving Sammy Halbert. On the restart, Wiles and Mees jumped to the front, but nothing changed between the two from that point.
The win was the second TT victory of the year for Wiles after capturing the Castle Rock TT on Aug. 2.
“It’s a great day,” Wiles said. “I couldn’t be more happy with this main event. There’s so many people that helped me to get to where I am. I knew it was going to be tough. … I just find a good pace, I knew I didn’t have to go any harder than I was. I was just kind of maintaining. … Thankfully, it was enough today.”
If Mees, pilot of the No. 2 Montgomeryville Cycle Honda, had a chance to reel in Wiles, it was spoiled when the two caught lapped traffic and Wiles was able to expertly knife through and expand his margin.
“I think we’re the second best guy every time we come in here, but just come up short every time,” Mees said. “(Wiles) gets the start and he gets those first five laps on me.”
Ramspur Winery’s Jake Johnson got by No. 1-plate holder Brad Baker (Brothers Power Sports) on the fifth lap when Baker landed hard off the jump and lost his momentum. Johnson was happy with a podium finish, but wished he could have been more of the equation for the victory.
“We knew Henry was going to be the guy to beat, he’s been the last 10 years,” Johnson said. “But one of these days, we’re hoping he turns human and we can beat him. But for me, it was a good day. Came out on the box, can’t complain, staying consistent. But it was a little disappointing to get third and be a straightaway back. But I’ll take it.”
Mees heads to Round 13, the Virginia Mega Mile, with a nine-point advantage over Bryan Smith (Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio), who was seventh Sunday. Johnson is 14 points back of Mees.
Jacob Lehmann isn’t a regular on the AMA Pro Flat Track scene, but on Sunday at the Peoria TT, he made his time with the series count.
Lehmann, riding the No. 20M Honda held off a hard charge to the line by runner-up Bronson Bauman to win by a scant .057 seconds in the Pro Singles Main event. Ryan Wells rounded out the podium on his No. 98B KTM.
“Ever since the first time I rode this track, I love it, and that was two years ago,” Lehmann said. “I just keep coming back, this is one I mark on my calendar. Today was awesome, I only had one other win before.”
The top three were the beneficiaries of a little hard luck for a front-runner, however, with points leader Kyle Johnson going down while leading with five laps remaining.
Bauman, on his No. 30Z Honda moved alongside Lehmann in the final corner and had a solid run down the homestretch, but just couldn’t get a wheel in front.
Wells capitalized on an opportunity to pick up a lot of points with Johnson going down and Davis Fisher, who is second in points, sitting out of Peoria following an incident at the Indy Mile.
The top three in points, Johnson, Fisher and Wells, are separated just 13 (150-142-137) as the series heads to the Virginia Mega Mile for Round 13.
Expert Main Top 10
1. Henry Wiles (Kawasaki)
2. Jared Mees (Honda)
3. Jake Johnson (Honda)
4. Briar Bauman (Honda)
5. Stevie Bonsey (Honda)
6. Brad Baker (Honda)
7. Bryan Smith (Kawasaki)
8. Robert Pearson (Kawasaki)
9. Shaun Russell (Honda)
10. Mike Rush (Honda)
Expert Top 10 in points
1. Jared Mees 204
2. Bryan Smith 195
3. Jake Johnson 190
4. Kenny Coolbeth 160
5. Henry Wiles 144
6. Sammy Halbert 139
7. Brad Baker 132
8. Stevie Bonsey 123
9. Brandon Robinson 117
10. Briar Bauman 97
–From AMA Pro Racing