American Flat Track: Henry Wiles Interview

Thunder Valley has become Henry’s house with 13-consecutive victories.

Henry Wiles Flat Track
Wiles and crew took a new approach to the Twin for TTs—a Kawasaki Ninja 650 with a dirt track frame with motocross plastics and suspension.Photo: Andrea Wilson

You'd think that repetition might get a bit dull. Well, when it comes to racing, 13-consecutive wins at the Peoria TT—the longest running event in the American Flat Track history—doesn't lose its shine. Henry Wiles' win in Thunder Valley this year helped cement his legacy at not only an iconic venue but in the sport as a whole.

“Everybody says, ‘it’s supposed to be Henry’s race to win,’ but it’s never easy,” Wiles said. “You ask any of these guys out here if this race is easy to win. It’s not. It’s not for me, either. But at the end of the day, we did a lot of things right.”

Wiles dominance on the TT is unmatched. He’s the winningest TT racer in the sport with 18 TT wins. The Michigan native’s dominant win also associated his name with another one of the sports greats—seven-time Grand National Champion and fellow TT specialist, Chris Carr.

Although Wiles beat Carr’s consecutive wins at Peoria a while ago, Carr still owned Thunder Valley with 13-career Grand National wins at the Peoria TT. The pressure was on this year to tie the Prince of Peoria’s wins. And to tie those wins outside of the comfort zone in a new era of American Flat Track—a return to fire-breathing twin-cylinder motorcycles on a TT track. At the end of the day, 12-consecutive wins on a single weren’t enough to make Wiles feel like he was the sure thing at this year’s Peoria TT.

Henry Wiles Flat Track
It’s not all TTs for Wiles, his win at Peoria moved him up to 10th on the all-time win list at 29, surpassing the “Michigan Mafia” Godfather Bart Markel.Photo: Andrea Wilson

“There were some ways I felt that we were a little bit of the underdog,” Wiles said. “I knew we didn’t quite have the horsepower after last week. I knew I would be fine there at the Buffalo Chip but there was a little thought in the back of my head that I wasn’t quite sure if we’d have enough horsepower running down the front straight with these guys but it didn’t matter today. I’m happy about that.”

But even more important to Wiles than tying Carr’s record was being able to share the experience with his son.

“I never feel like any less emotion when I win this race,” he said. “It’s just an awesome race to win. It’s just such a humbling experience, everything that went into it. I was asked what it meant to win 13 and tie Chris Carr’s record and I said that was just the icing on the cake, really. My main goal today was to take my little boy for a victory lap. That’s what I really wanted to do.”

After all racing’s a family affair. The win was that much more special to share with family, especially his son.

Henry Wiles Flat Track
Henry Wiles’ 13th-straight win at the Peoria TT was icing on the cake. Taking his son Henry River Wiles for the victory lap was the real prize.Photo: Andrea Wilson

“My dad was out on the track giving me signs, letting me know what was going on,” he said. “I knew I had a pretty big gap. I told myself to just ride it out, here’s the moment. I just almost got a little teary-eyed just because I realized that my dream to give my little boy a ride around this track for a victory lap was going to come true. It’s just so awesome. I take being a dad real seriously. To get it done was an amazing moment in my life. Thirteen, that’s awesome too, but I really wanted to…"

“He’s with me in the trenches and he doesn’t even know it. He doesn’t go to daycare. I get him every Tuesday through Thursday and that’s right in the middle of your week that you’ve got to get stuff done. He’s with me and we’re charging and getting things done. He deserves it and he doesn’t even know it.”

Although there were a lot of question marks going into the race, especially after a mechanical at Buffalo Chip, Peoria Motorcycle Club’s TT track has Wiles at ease.

“It’s 13 wins and I’ve done it with different teams on different bikes and sometimes it’s stressful,” he explained. “I was really calm this year. Last year when I came here I didn’t even have tires on my bike that I needed yet, but I was just very calm. I knew that I was going to have what it took to win here today. There were no questions about anything in my head.”

Henry Wiles Flat Track
Success breeds confidence as does the support of a good team. The TT specialist is looking for more than TT wins this season.Photo: Andrea Wilson

The development of what looks like a motocross bike had a love child with a Twin didn’t happen overnight either, but thankfully they had a few TTs under their belt to put the Kawasaki Ninja 650 through its paces.

“I’m racing a bike that’s quite a bit different than these other guys, so that could be a good or a bad thing,” he said. “It really can be. But I think that since Daytona we’ve developed the bike a whole lot more. It’s better than probably what I realize. I didn’t race any races on the GNC circuit from Lima until Sturgis TT, so I missed a few rounds there consecutively. Sometimes it’s hard to know where you stack up against everybody. But we were working on stuff. We were improving our equipment.”

Part of that extra confidence for Wiles in 2017 is his DPC Racing team behind him. The TT specialist wants more than TT wins and he’s confident that he’s on the right path to win on the big tracks.

“Now we just got to get the job done on some of these bigger tracks,” Wiles said. “We’re working on that. Like I said, my team’s working hard. They’re talented people that I’ve got behind me. I’ve said that from the start. I’ve said that since Daytona, that these guys are good guys.

“We put in a good run at the X Games and put in a good run at the half-mile out there in Sturgis. We’re getting better, but we still just need a little bit more to go. I know that I’m a good enough rider to be up front every race. We’ve just got to get a few of the pieces of the puzzle together yet.”