PEORIA, Ill. – J.D. Beach added a career achievement to his lengthy list of racing accomplishments, winning the 74th Law Tigers Peoria TT presented by Country Saloon at PMC Race Park on Saturday afternoon.
Beach came into the weekend with the reputation as one of the best TT riders in the Progressive American Flat Track paddock. That reputation was well-earned; he boasted three victories in the most recent four Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle TT Main Events, with a third-place finish in the 2019 Peoria TT standing the only blemish on that record.
The ultra-versatile Beach got his revenge Saturday, brushing off the race-long pressure applied by the ‘19 winner, reigning Grand National Champion Briar Bauman, to earn one of the most coveted checkered flags in the sport.
Beach made quick work of holeshot winner Jared Mees and then fully exploited the temporary head start he held over Bauman, who made an identical move up the inside of Mees in turn two just more than a minute later. That short minute, however, provided Beach with the time to accumulate an early 1.123-second advantage.
Bauman stalked his way up toward Beach as the race developed. He cut the advantage to .837 seconds as they took the halfway flags and then further decreased the difference to .509 with two minute to go. And that gap promised to evaporate to nothing when the leaders ran up the backside of a big pack of lappers just when the clock dipped under the one-minute-to-go mark.
However, a couple minor miscues on the part of Bauman allowed Beach to knife through unchallenged, spoiling any last-lap plans the champ may have formulated during his pursuit.
“I just trusted the bike and the team, and it was a lot of fun,” Beach said. “For me and the team, it’s nice because we’ve one ‘Super TTs’ and these one-off races, but to win a real flat track race feels great. We had an awesome day and to end it like this is great.”
Mees appeared to be on the wane after being passed by Beach and Bauman, also surrendering third place to Jarod Vanderkooi a few minutes later. However, the factory Indian ace regrouped and took the position back to end the race on the podium. That determined effort may prove important; Bauman now leads Mees by 25 points (217-192) with a critically important stretch of four consecutive Miles looming on the horizon.
Vanderkooi, meanwhile, upped his top-five streak to nine in fourth, while Robert Pearson came out on top of a huge multi-rider slugfest for fifth.
The AFT Singles Main Event was arguably the most anticipated of the weekend, with Henry Wiles and his 14-race Peoria win streak set to square off with reigning champion and fellow Peoria genius Dallas Daniels. In fact, a rain delay and subsequent schedule reshuffle even moved the class main event to the end-of-the-program slot customarily reserved for Mission SuperTwins.
The hype only intensified after Wiles and Daniels won their Semis, while Brandon Kitchen added the spice of a potential spoiler, flashing Wiles-bettering speed in the lead-up to the main.
However, the main event provided even more drama than anyone expected (or wanted). Daniels took the holeshot and immediately built up a small gap from Wiles. However, the race had barely gotten underway when the Estenson Racing prodigy nearly lost the jump landing from the front, veering into the wet grass and crashing to the ground.
Kitchen was the next to go down; he fell hard from second-place in the same area with his bike tumbling over the fence and into the creek, bringing out the red flag.
A lap down and starting from the back of the field, Daniels ripped past half the field following the restart. Unfortunately, his day soon took an even worse turn. A massive headshake suffered while pulling away a tear-off sent him over the bars at speed on the front straight, forcing yet another stoppage.
Wiles continued to control the race up front all the while, assembling his third big gap of the race before a last-lap red flag following a Trevor Brunner crash brought the Main to a conclusion.
“We gutted it out today,” Wiles said. “It was a bummer to see Dallas go down… He had a little gap on me. I came in here just praying today and thanking God for all my blessings because I’ve had so many of them just at this track alone. I was getting a little emotional coming in here, and it almost seemed like fate that I made that little mistake before Daniels went off the track over there. It was definitely interesting on how things worked out. I really hope everybody who fell is okay.”
Perhaps the biggest winner on the day was Max Whale. What originally looked to be a task of damage minimization ended with a runner-up result after Whale outdueled Wiles’ teammates, Cole Zabala and Brunner.
As a result, Whale leapt from two points back to 16 up on Daniels (196-180) with just five races remaining.
Zabala rounded out the podium with Brunner being credited in fourth despite his late crash.
Behind, Ferran Cardús came out on top of a scrap with fellow high-profile wild card Ryan Sipes to complete the top five.
Dan Bromley scored his maiden AFT Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines victory in a charging performance at Peoria.
The Pennsylvanian worked his way up from an early fourth to chase down race-long leader Ben Lowe, finally executing the race’s decisive maneuver entering Turn 1 with just five seconds (plus two laps) remaining on the clock.
Much of the pre-race talk revolved around the fact that Vance & Hines drafted in a pair of TT titans in Hayden Gillim and Jesse Janisch to fill-in for the injured Dalton Gauthier. A 1-2 for the super subs seemed like not only a possibility but a probability after they powered to victories in their respective Semifinals.
However, their threatening presence actually turned out to be a boon for Bromley. In the end, the duo finished third (Janisch) and fourth (Gillim), providing an additional points buffer between third-ranked Bromley and championship leader Cory Texter.
Texter, meanwhile, had his work cut out for him from the jump. While clutch issues in his Semi forced him to start from the back, he still managed to battle his way up to sixth at the checkered flag. Ultimately, that allowed him to extend his points advantage to nearly two full races (49 points) over Gauthier.
“I knew coming in here this was going to be one of the most physically demanding tracks,” Bromley said. “I tried training as hard as I could and my mechanic, Nick Henderson, was sending me motivational speeches, books, everything, just to try to get me in the right mindset.
“The coolest thing was, for me, the rougher the track and the harder I rode, the easier it was. Toward the end of the race, every lap I caught Ben by about five feet. A lapper held him up a little bit and I was able to capitalize on that. I came through on the next lap and was able to get the win. To be up here is amazing.”
Lima winner Johnny Lewis came home between Gillim and Texter to round out the top five.