Henry Wiles (AFT photo)

Wiles Leads Flat Trackers To Peoria

PEORIA, Ill. — While the opening nine rounds of the Progressive American Flat Track season played out on oval dirt tracks of all sizes, the second half will kick off on Saturday, with the first TT.

And it’s not just any TT, it’s the World Famous SC2 Peoria TT presented by Country Saloon.

Set in the Peoria Motorcycle Club’s scenic natural amphitheater in Peoria, Illi., and boasting history and tradition that’s nearly unrivaled across two-wheeled sport, the Peoria TT easily ranks among the most prestigious races on the Progressive AFT slate.

Reigning Mission SuperTwins presented by S&S Cycle champion Jared Mees (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) has accomplished almost every possible goal in his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, but victory at the Peoria TT has proven just outside his grasp.

While Mees has finished as the race’s runner-up on multiple occasions, he’ll enter this year’s 75th edition of the fabled race as the underdog. Despite his vast skill and past success, Mees will be faced with perhaps the most stacked premier-class Peoria TT field in recent memory.

His three closest championship rivals all carry high hopes into Peoria. Second-ranked Briar Bauman (No. 3 Indian Motorcycle/Progressive Insurance FTR750) won the race in 2019 and enters the weekend riding high after two consecutive victories.

Third-ranked Dallas Daniels (No. 32 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) is the home track hero who scored his first career professional win at the venue in dominant fashion. And fourth-ranked JD Beach (No. 95 Estenson Racing Yamaha MT-07 DT) won last year’s Peoria TT by more than three seconds to claim his fourth win of the series’ most recent five TTs.

If the opposition didn’t look formidable enough already, “King” Henry Wiles (No. 17 Willy Built Kawasaki Ninja 650) is set to make his Progressive AFT return this weekend. Wiles is the most successful rider in the race’s history, assembling an incredible 14-race win streak from 2004-’18.

Chief among the aforementioned group is Mission Production Twins presented by Vance & Hines title leader Jesse Janisch (No. 33 Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson XG750R).

Janisch’s three-prior undercard Peoria TT victories is what earned him his shot on the Vance & Hines XG750R initially with the team in need of an injury replacement as it headed to the venue a year ago.

Janisch has since shed his reputation as a TT specialist with the sort of all-around excellence required to build a title lead in a season thus far absent of TTs, but that discipline-specific expertise remains.

A year ago, Janisch finished third in his first ride on the bike. He’s much more at home aboard it now and should only prove that much more formidable. And he’ll need to be in order to overcome last year’s winner and second-place finishers, Dan Bromley (No. 62 Vinson Construction/Viper Air Yamaha MT-07) and Ben Lowe (No. 25 Mission Foods/Roof Systems Yamaha MT-07).

With Janisch expecting to make hay, the weekend will be of equal importance to defending champion Cory Texter (No. 1 G&G Racing/Yamaha Racing Yamaha MT-07), who currently sits on point out of first.

The Peoria TT will be the ultimate test of Kody Kopp (No. 12 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE)’s recent Parts Unlimited AFT Singles presented by KICKER invincibility. Kopp certainly has the skill to extend his four-race win streak in Peoria, flashing front-running pace a year ago before ultimately finishing down in ninth position.

The 17-year-old has taken his game to another level in ‘22, and as such, he’s expected to be a serious player. However, he’ll be contending with a field anxious to bring his run of unmitigated success to a halt, led by the likes of last year’s Peoria TT winner Max Whale(No. 18 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 SX-FFE) and 2017 DAYTONA TT winner Dalton Gauthier (No. 79 American Honda/Progressive Insurance CRF450R).