DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 14, 2012) - The second half of the 2012 AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil started with a bang as the series returned to the oldest venue on the circuit. Peoria, IL and the Peoria Motorcycle Club's Race Park TT served as round nine of the 16 race series.
Just like the last seven years, Henry Wiles dominated the 25-lap national, leading every lap and winning by a margin of almost seven seconds. Repeating their finishes from last week in Castle Rock, WA, series points leader Jared Mees (Montgomeryville Cycle) was second and defending AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) was a solid third.
Many felt Wiles' winning streak was in jeopardy as he has struggled of late with his potent Kawasaki, but mild-mannered Henry stepped out of the phone booth with his cape firmly attached.
"Everybody was getting nervous. People around me that I talk to sometimes on a weekly basis, I could tell they were nervous," said Wiles. "I said it will be ok, we will be up front. It's tough on a guy sometimes when you are not getting the finishes you know you can, but you are fighting something. We struggled with the bike setup and some mechanical problems, but I tell you, I wasn't frustrated. I know that some things are going to be harder than others."
Wiles win matches Chris Carr's Peoria record of eight consecutive wins. "A lot of people would think eight in a row is enough, but I don't, nine would be nice," warned Wiles. "I tell you what, it's a special thing to be able to come in here and tie Chris' eight. I don't think Chris gets enough credit for winning 13 races here. When you stop and look back, that's a lot of years. A lot of things happen in that amount of time."
"Guys were running good today. I knew the field would be tough," said Wiles. "I qualified fast. I had fast heat race and didn't do so well in the Dash."
Even though Wiles had been fast qualifier and fast heat winner, Sammy Halbert (Fredericktown Yamaha) got the hole-shot in the Dash for Cash and came away with the win. Wiles even had second place slip away as Mees slipped by on the last lap. Halbert's four lap Dash for Cash performance foretold his national problems as each trip over the big jump was an adventure.
Wiles got the lead on what would be an aborted start as Luke Gough (Nicely Motorsports / Skip Eaken Racing) fell heavily coming off the jump on lap one. Gough was unable to make the restart and was transported to a local hospital with a reported leg injury.
When the light flashed green for the 25-lap main event, Wiles shot to the front and it became a race for second.
"Just like last year, I just struggled on the starting line. Wiles popped me right off the line," said Mees. "He did exactly what he had to do. Sammy got in between us and kind of road blocked us a little bit. It is what it is. One of these days maybe I can get off with him and give him a run. We always come here in June and have a lot of dominance, then he puts it on us in the main event."
Wiles' day was not without stress including a major moment late in the race.
"I'm just proud of my team and my sponsors and my mechanic, Johnny (Olmstead). We had some problems in that Dash, but we made some changes to the bike," said Wiles. "I knew when I did the warm up lap that the bike was better. It was a relief. I said, 'Yes, this is going to make my life a little bit easier today.' On about lap 17 or 18 going into turn one I set my foot down, it all happened at just the wrong time. It was just all wrong timing, but I stuck my foot right in a hole, which is something that can happen and I've done it here before. The ground was really hard today. I was tapping it a little bit coming to the jump, I thought I stinking broke it. I knew that I would still be able to win the race if it was broke. I was on a mission today."