Henry Wiles Talks New Team
Going into the American Flat Track season opener in Daytona Beach, Florida, no one really knew what Henry Wiles’ program was outside of the fact that he was racing a Kawasaki in 2017. We also knew he was privateer going up against some factory Goliaths – the Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team and the Indian Wrecking Crew. But Wiles knows a thing or two about TT racing. The Michigan native is the winningest TT rider, so he was still one of the favorites to take the win at the inaugural DAYTONA TT.
In the end, Wiles didn’t take the win, but he scored the final podium spot in the AFT Twins class for his new team, DPC Racing. Wiles and his crew also turned heads with what looked like the love child of Kawasaki Twin and 450 motocross bike. A one-off special for a special night - the series debut inside the legendary tri-oval of the Daytona International Speedway. We had a chance to catch up Wiles after the TT to talk about his new program for and the excitement for the new season.
Tell us about your new team for 2017?
They’ve been around the sport for a long time. We’ve got a lot of talent on the team, in my perspective. We’ve got guys that are really capable of doing whatever I need. They’re local guys, so we’ve got some Michigan boys on the program. I think that’s going to be a great benefit to us. We’ve got some really good motor guys that worked for a lot of these top teams right within two hours of me. One’s 15 minutes away and another one is a couple hours away. I’m good friends with Woody Kyle as well. We’ve got one of his motors. Ron Hamp is going to become a major player in our program.
I don’t know if these Kawasakis that come out of street motors… I don’t know how well they’ll run with the Indians like on some of the bigger tracks, but I’m excited to see. I don’t know for sure, but I’m going to guess I’m probably going to ride one of the best Kawasakis I’ve ever ridden. I’m going to have a lot of input on the motorcycle, which is something I’ve only had on 450s, and I’ve got 26 450cc wins. Twenty-one of those 450 wins, the motorcycle came out of my garage or my mechanic’s in Michigan who I lived in the garage, my shop.
I don’t want to sound like maybe I haven’t had good opportunities in the past – because I have, but for whatever reason they just haven’t worked out. I know a lot about myself and a lot about motorcycle racing and a lot about what I need out of the motorcycle. It’s just been kind of hard to get that, especially when you’re under the gun trying to get caught up with everything. But I think this program is going to be a lot different. Like I said, I’m really excited about it.
Basically with money not really being there, there’s been some inconsistencies with teams, so now you have one that you feel really comfortable with…
I do. We’re doing the whole season. It’s a big season, 18 rounds, coast to coast. Jake Wilson, he built the motorcycle that I’m on (at the Daytona TT), him and Joe Maney. It’s funny because Joe did the modifications on my PW50 that I won my first state championship TT on… so these guys have been around for a long time. He went to work as a shop teacher for like 20 years and he just handed in his walking papers on Friday. He retired last Friday. So we’re going to go racing.
Jake Wilson’s a younger guy, my age. A lot of energy, a lot of talent, a lot of know-how. He’s really smart. What he doesn’t know, he figures out. I’m really excited to be working with these guys. This is their first podium in a big national race, so they’re probably going to be exited too. And then Jake’s dad, he’s been a drag racer and has a lot of knowhow about a lot of things. So racing’s in these guys’ blood. Just because they maybe haven’t been dirt track racing doesn’t mean they don’t know how to go out and win stuff.
You’ve been around the sport for a while. Have you ever seen this much excitement before?
Well, I’ve seen a lot of excitement before, but at the time maybe I wasn’t as experienced or maybe the people around me weren’t as experienced, but we were all excited to go racing. There’s a lot to be said for that. But now that there’s all the knowhow that we have, I think some of the things maybe they don’t know, I know, and then vice versa. They know a whole lot that I don’t. I can start running ideas by them… They’re open to ideas.
So we’re going to do some more homework. Like I said, the motorcycle they built is a one-off motorcycle between Joe and Jake. They put the whole thing together. They built the whole thing from the ground up and we robbed the suspension off a 450 and we brought it out here. This is only the second time I’ve rode it. I’ve never ridden that bike on a TT before. We rode it on the pavement a few times and then we rode it on a half mile and that’s been it. I’m excited. I don’t know if next week will go quite as good as this week, but I’m not saying it won’t because I started on second row. This week wasn’t looking that good for me, and we ended up on the podium. So we’ll just keep digging.