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Hammerin’ Hank Nails His Ninth Peoria TT, Baker’s the New Champion

| 20 August 2013 12:52 pm

AMA Pro Flat Track Series
Round 7: Peoria Motorcycle Club’s 66th National Championship TT

Story by Dan Jacobson Sr.
Photos by Brent and Stephanie Pierce
PEORIA, IL, AUG. 11, 2013

What does the “Peoria TT” mean? When you think of flat-track racing, you think oval dirt track, in any size up to a mile. “TT” stands for “Tourist Trophy”… Right. Still doesn’t tell me anything. Well, if you imagine a smooth dirt track with right and left turns, with at least one jump, does that help? Kind of a short rally course for motorcycles, with fans lining the hillsides…? Bingo! That works.

Henry Wiles (17) flies off the Peoria TT jump at the Peoria Motorcycle Club’s 66th National Championship TT, a.k.a. round seven of the AMA Pro Flat Track Series.

Henry Wiles (17) flies off the Peoria TT jump at the Peoria Motorcycle Club’s 66th National Championship TT, a.k.a. round seven of the AMA Pro Flat Track Series.

The Peoria Motorcycle Club has hosted the world’s longest-running National Championship event of its type since 1947. That 66 years. This is also the 82nd anniversary of the Peoria Motorcycle Club itself.

This year’s Peoria TT had a championship on the line for the National Expert Singles. Five riders still had a mathematical chance at the title: Brad Baker, Jared Mees, Henry Wiles, Brandon Robinson, and Jeffrey Carver Jr.

The first J&P Cycles AMA Pro Singles heat brought out a red flag at the halfway point when Cole Anderson tank-slapped himself over the bars hard just before the jump. (Typically, the wrecks happen after the high-speed jump.) Anderson was sitting up, talking with the paramedics, as the rest of the riders prepared for a restart.

On that restart, it was 2012 Champion Steven Vanderkuur leading the single-file snake line of Pro Singles. Justin Reed, the fastest qualifier, was back in fifth, with Rodney Spencer Jr., Jacob Lehman and Richard Ivey III filling slots two through four.

Rodney Spencer Jr. (74Z) and Justin Long (19B) work the tricky Peoria TT track.

Rodney Spencer Jr. (74Z) and Justin Long (19B) work the tricky Peoria TT track.

Meanwhile, Anderson was transported to a local hospital with a broken scapula and a concussion. He was kept overnight and then transported back to Minnesota, where he will undergo surgery on his badly broken scapula.

The second heat was all Ryan Wells, on the Waters Racing Honda. Dan Bromley, Justin Jones, Michael Strable, Kyle Johnson, Ben Lowe and Kole King made the direct transfers, and the rest would go to the last-chance qualifier. Conner Anderson (brother of Cole Anderson) also wrecked, ending his day; it was just a bad day for the Anderson brothers.

In the first GNC National Expert Singles heat race, it took Henry Wiles only a couple of laps to insert his Kawasaki into the lead and begin to pull away. After leading initially, J.D. Beach was trailing Wiles by 1.2 seconds at the halfway mark, with Brad Baker closing on Beach; Baker needed to gain all the points he could to hold on to the championship lead. Just when it looked like a done deal, Wiles’ engine failed and he dropped to last with one lap to go. Beach took the win, with Baker in hot pursuit.

“It just stopped running,” Wiles said.

Tied with Chris Carr with eight wins in a row apiece, Henry Wiles now had a mountain to climb. This mechanical issue would create even more drama, placing Wiles in the semi with a less-than-perfect starting slot. Would the Kawasaki quit again? Would Wiles make the main? If he did, could he make it through the field of world-class racers from the back row and make it a record nine wins in a row?

In heat two, Jake Johnson was on the pole, and he got off to a rocky start, as there was a red-flag stoppage when Sammy Halbert crashed off the jump; he would  miss the heat’s restart. If at this point the reader is starting to notice that the jump at Peoria is more than a little dangerous, you’d be spot-on. The first five were a tightly packed group, with Stevie Bonsey in the lead, followed by Shaun Russell, Johnson, Bryan Smith and Aaron King at halfway. Mikey Martin took fifth place away from King but still missed getting the direct transfer to the main.

Sammy Halbert (7) suffered another blow to his season, wrecking off the jump and having to sit out the semi and the main event.

Sammy Halbert (7) suffered another blow to his season, wrecking off the jump and having to sit out the semi and the main event.

Briar Bauman was sitting on the pole for heat three, with a front row of points chasers – Jared Mees, Jeffrey Carver Jr. – waiting for the green light. The red flag came out again when Mikey Rush went down hard in turn one; he did make it back for the full restart.

With the wave of the green flag, the fans got to see a battle between Carver and Bauman. Michael Kirkness and Chad Cose watched as Bauman retook command of the lead. Jared Mees was off the leaders’ pace, back in eighth and heading to the semi. Meanwhile, Briar Bauman stretched out his lead over Carver. At the finish, it was Bauman, Carver, Kirkness and Cose heading to the big show and the balance of the riders heading to one of the two semis.

Just to recap, the highlights of the heat races were the amount of red flags thrown and Henry Wile’s Kawasaki problem, while the J&P Cycles AMA Pro Singles showed once again that they are the best act in support-class motorsports. Thunder Valley’s Peoria TT is a challenging track with a high-speed jump that riders have to hit while turning. Who would be up for the challenge in the main events? Who would stand out from the LCQ and the Expert semis?

The Pro Singles LCW is the racers’ last chance to make it to the big dance. Eighteen would start, and only the first four finishers would be going to the main event. Mike Poe would be starting from the pole; Ryan Kearns, Justin Minnaert, Cody Johncox, points leader Wyatt Maguire, and Jason Beal would fill out the front row. Cole and Conner Anderson did not make the LCQ due to their injuries.

Mike Poe took the lead, with Kearns, Johncox and Dominic Colindres in tow and with Minnaert putting the pressure on. Kearns took the lead, and at the checkers it was Kearns, Poe, Colindres and Johncox moving on to the Pro Singles main.

In the four-lap Dash For Cash, J.D. Beach, Brad Baker, Stevie Bonsey, Shaun Russell, Briar Bauman and Jeffrey Carver Jr. were waiting for the green. Russell led lap one for a grand in cash. Baker then took the lead, looking to take the five championship points and the cash. It was looking good for Brad “The Bullet” Baker and the Expert Singles Championship – if he could just finish in the top five in the main event. Incidentally, Baker had switched from the red Hondas to the KTM for this day’s races.

Brad Baker (12) leads the four-lap Dash For Cash over Briar Bauman (14), Shaun Russell (28), and the rest of the field. Missing the Dash was Henry Wiles after his bike quit while he was leading the heat race.

Brad Baker (12) leads the four-lap Dash For Cash over Briar Bauman (14), Shaun Russell (28), and the rest of the field. Missing the Dash was Henry Wiles after his bike quit while he was leading the heat race.

In the first National Expert Singles semi, only three riders would be moving forward to the main. Jake Shoemaker was on the pole. Jared Mees got out front, with Aaron King and Justin Hittle completing the top three and all very close. Mees was still wearing an arm support on the arm he broke earlier in the season, but he was pulling away, while King and Hittle battled over second. Kenny Coolbeth moved up to fourth but did not enough time to pass anyone else and make the main. Mees, King and Hittle would be moving on to the main.

“I just needed to settle down a bit to get it in the main,” Mees said.

In the second Expert Singles semi, it was the same deal: The top three would move on to the big dance. Robinson and Wiles were both still in the points race. Mikey Rush got the holeshot, but Wiles was making tracks; gaining a full second on Rush, Wiles took over the lead with seven laps to go. Adam Bushman, in the last transfer slot, came under attack from “The Dusty Crow” (a new racer who didn’t make the main) and then found himself in a fight with Robinson, and Robinson took third away from the Crow. At the finish, it was Wiles by 8.539 seconds over Mikey Rush and Brandon Robinson, and those three headed to the main.

Rodney Spencer Jr. (74Z) picked his mom to join him on his victory lap after his first-ever J&P Cycles AMA Singles win.

Rodney Spencer Jr. (74Z) picked his mom to join him on his victory lap after his first-ever J&P Cycles AMA Singles win.

The J&P Cycles AMA Pro Singles main event had Ryan Wells on the pole and Steven Vanderkuur, Dan Bromley, Rod Spencer Jr., Justin Jones and Jacob Lehmann comprising the front row. Row two had Michael Strable, Justin Reed, Kyle Johnson, Hunter Taylor, Lowe and Richard Ivey. The third row held Kole King, Jeffrey Lowery, Mike Poe, Dominic Colindres, Ryan Kearns and Cody Johncox.

On the first attempt, Johncox went down, bringing out the now-common red flag. Richard Ivey’s bike hit the creek and didn’t make the restart. The riders lined up for a complete restart and got ready for the green.

Dan Bromley got the all-important holeshot ,with Jones and Spencer chasing as the field passed the flagman. However, that ubiquitous red flag came out yet again after lap four of 16, resetting the field for the single-file restart with Jones leading the snake.

Jones got the holeshot, with Spencer, Lehmann and Vanderkuur chasing. The top four were nose to tail at the halfway mark. Rodney Spencer took the lead on lap nine. On lap 12, Vanderkuur stalled his engine and Michael Strable wrecked in turn one. The field caught its collective breath and thought about the minimum five-lap dash to the checkers.

Making a great comeback after having his skin removed from his fingers on the clutch side, Dan Bromley, the early leader, found himself on the box as runner-up, along with winner Rodney Spencer and third-place finisher Justin Jones. Dominic Colindres was black-flagged for losing his footpeg.

 

On the J&P Cycles AMA Pro Singles podium, first-time winner Rodney Spencer Jr. (center) was joined by runner-up Dan Bromley (right) and third-place finisher Justin Jones (left).

On the J&P Cycles AMA Pro Singles podium, first-time winner Rodney Spencer Jr. (center) was joined by runner-up Dan Bromley (right) and third-place finisher Justin Jones (left).

Barry Boone (right) talks with J&P Cycles Pro Singles runner-up Dan Bromley (left), who rides the KTM North American bike.

Barry Boone (right) talks with J&P Cycles Pro Singles runner-up Dan Bromley (left), who rides the KTM North American bike.

As the AMA Pro Expert National Singles riders were being introduced before the final, the crowd was all attention, following the words and wisdom of AMA Pro Flat Track announcers Barry Boone and Scottie “Hollywood” Deubler. If Henry Wiles could be first to the checkers in the 25-lap final for the Expert Singles, he would set a new record, with nine Peoria wins in a row.

Early on in the Expert National Singles main, Shaun Russell (28) – making a comeback to the series – leads J.D. Beach (95), Briar Bauman (14) and the rest of the pack. Note all the traffic that Henry Wiles (17) would have to overcome…

Early on in the Expert National Singles main, Shaun Russell (28) – making a comeback to the series – leads J.D. Beach (95), Briar Bauman (14) and the rest of the pack. Note all the traffic that Henry Wiles (17) would have to overcome…

T.J. Burnett Farms’ J.D. Beach was on the pole. Zanotti Racing’s Stevie Bonsey, Briar Bauman, Dodge Brothers Racing’s Brad Baker, Shaun Russell, and Jeffery Caver Jr. filled out the front row.

Russell led lap one, with Bauman in hot pursuit, while Wiles was coming from 13th and starting to head toward the front. Bauman took the lead from Russell.

With six laps down, Wiles had made it to third and was closing on Bauman. Then Wiles took over second.

Baker had said before the race, “Wiles is going down” – but not on this day, as Henry Wiles hammered the field and stretched out his lead to 1.08 seconds at the halfway point, gaining a few tenths of a second per lap over Baker and Bauman.

The big race was among Beach, Bauman, Bonsey and Russell. Baker still looked solid for the championship if he could stay in second place with six laps to go.

Wiles finished three seconds out from Baker in second place – Baker had won the Expert Singles Championship, and Wiles had won his ninth Peoria TT victory in a row!

Brad Baker – the new AMA Pro Racing Expert Singles Champion for 2013.

Brad Baker – the new AMA Pro Racing Expert Singles Champion for 2013.

Brad “The Bullet” Baker did everything right in 2013, leading the points in the combined and singles and picked up the check for winning the Dash For Cash. Brad is rewriting the record book by becoming number one in the shortest amount of time as an Expert – three years.

Brad “The Bullet” Baker did everything right in 2013, leading the points in the combined and singles and picked up the check for winning the Dash For Cash. Brad is rewriting the record book by becoming number one in the shortest amount of time as an Expert – three years.

Behind them came the rest: J.D. Beach, Shaun Russell, Briar Bauman, Stevie Bonsey, Robert Pearson, Jared Mees, Jeffrey Caver Jr., Bryan Smith, Michael Kirkness, Jake Johnson, William Cato, Justin Hittle, Mikey Rush, Aaron King, Chad Cose and Brandon Robinson.

After breaking the record for consecutive wins at the Peoria TT – nine in a row – Henry Wiles took a victory lap with Don Kissinger of Don’s Kawasaki.

After breaking the record for consecutive wins at the Peoria TT – nine in a row – Henry Wiles took a victory lap with Don Kissinger of Don’s Kawasaki.

It may be hard to imagine one racer being so much faster in a world-class field of riders, but “Hammerin’ Hank” has a hold on the TT track in Thunder Valley.

Henry Wiles (center) stands atop the Peoria podium for the ninth time in a row. Brad Baker (right) is the new Expert Singles Champion for 2013, and Jeffrey Carver (left) was the third-place finisher.

Henry Wiles (center) stands atop the Peoria podium for the ninth time in a row. Brad Baker (right) is the new Expert Singles Champion for 2013, and Jeffrey Carver (left) was the third-place finisher.

A big thank-you goes out to the Peoria Motorcycle Club, for hosting the longest-running National TT event in the world; to Saddlemen Seats and Luggage, for the rookie expert program; to Sunoco Fuels, for quality racing gas; and to Dyno Jet, Screaming Eagle, Harley-Davidson, Cortect, Goodyear, Delson Products, MotoBatt, Clearwater Lights, and presenting partner J&P Cycles.

Peoria Motorcycle Club’s 66th National Championship TT
Peoria, Illinois
Results: August 11, 2013 (Round 7)

GNC NATIONAL EXPERT SINGLES MAIN: 1. Henry Wiles (Hon); 2. Brad Baker (KTM); 3. J.D. Beach (Hon); 4. Shaun Russell (Hon); 5. Briar Bauman (Hon); 6. Stevie Bonsey (Hon); 7. Robert Pearson (Hon); 8. Jared Mees (Hon); 9. Jeffrey Carver Jr. (Hon); 10. Bryan Smith (Hon); 11. Michael Kirkness (Hon); 12. Jake Johnson (Hon); 13. William Cato (Hon); 14. Justin Hittle (Hon); 15. Mikey Rush (Hon); 16. Aaron King (KTM); 17. Chad Cose (Hon); 18. Brandon Robinson (Kaw).

PRO SINGLES MAIN: 1. Rodney Spencer Jr. (Hon); 2. Dan Bromley (KTM); 3. Justin Jones (Hon); 4. Jacob Lehmann (Hon); 5. Hunter Taylor (Hon); 6. Jeffrey Lowery (Hon); 7. Ryan Wells (Hon); 8. Stephen Vanderkuur (Hon); 9. Kyle Johnson (Kaw); 10. Ryan Kearns (Hon); 11. Ben Lowe (Hon); 12. Kole King (Hon); 13. Cody Johncox (Yam); 14. Mike Poe (Hon); 15. Justin Reed (KTM); 16. Michael Strable (Hon); 17. Dominic Colindres (Hon); 18. Richard Ivey III (Hon).

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