Wiles vs. Daniels: Who Will Be Crowned at 2021 Peoria TT?

Heading into the 2003 Peoria TT, 19-year-old Henry Wiles was still a relative unknown at the Grand National Championship level. He’d qualified for the Main and finished 13th late the previous season at the Tunica Short Track but had yet to make major waves at the sport’s highest level.

Armed with a Honda CR500 he’d only gotten his hands on two days earlier, a bike shod with tires he only managed to pay for by entering -- and winning -- the local short track race in Galesburg the night before, the teenaged Wiles raised eyebrows with an impressive seventh-place finish.

Two hours down the interstate in Mattoon, Illinois, there was a baby not even two months old by the name of Dallas Daniels. While only just, Daniels can say he was alive the last time Wiles was beaten at the Peoria TT. If he wants to see it again, he may just have to take matters into his own hands because since that Sunday in late August of 2003, “King Henry” has racked up a 14-race win streak at the fabled race.

While lacking a decade-plus of data to back it up, Daniels’ Progressive AFT record at the Peoria TT is similarly unblemished. Considering its place in dirt track history and Daniels’ nearby roots, it should come as no surprise that the Peoria TT was the race he grew up dreaming of winning. He finally got his chance in 2019 weeks after turning 16 and being granted his professional license.

That year, Daniels said, “I've been going to Peoria for years and years, watching the pro races there. It was always the coolest place for me to watch as a kid. And there's so much history there with Chris (Carr’s) record and then Henry (Wiles) winning 14 in a row. Pretty much as long as I've been alive, I've never seen anyone else win it...

“So when I turned pro, I told everybody -- and it wasn't me being cocky -- I told everyone I was going to win Peoria. That's the race I wanted to win. It's close to my home, I got to sleep in my own bed the night before, and it would only make sense with my family and friends there. I had ridden there a few times before, and I really liked the track. And my dad (Nick Daniels) had raced there so he was giving me some good tips on certain things.”

The Estenson Racing prodigy made good on his promise in his first attempt, shredding a loaded AFT Singles field that included TT heroes Jesse Janisch, Ryan Sipes, Dalton Gauthier, and Dan Bromley, to claim his maiden Progressive AFT victory.

Daniels’ status has only continued to soar, adding ten more victories and a national championship to his record since that breakthrough performance.

When Wiles was signed to compete for the 2020 AFT Singles title on an American Honda-backed CRF450R  just one season removed from finishing as the premier-class championship runner-up, the two were set on a Peoria TT collision course.

Late in 2019, even before the announcement of his signing had been made public, Wiles was already looking forward to the match-up. At the time, he said, “I think that's going to be a fun race for everybody. Riding a 450 at Peoria again is going to be a lot of fun even though I had pretty good success on the twin. Kids like Dallas Daniels... this next group of riders that goes up into the Twins class, in my opinion, are going to be that better and that much tougher -- because they're going to have to be to beat me.”

With the race put on hiatus in 2020 due to the global pandemic, the wait of another year has only increased the anticipation.

Daniels comes into the 2021 Law Tigers Peoria TT presented by Country Saloon leading the points again with a narrow two-point margin over works KTM runner Max Whale. Turner Racing/American Honda ace Wiles, meanwhile, is in serious need of a big result to reignite his championship campaign after his midseason momentum was stalled with a couple tough outings in recent weeks.

While their respective championship situations may call for different tactics, the bragging rights on the line should be enough to bring out the best in both.

Wiles versus Daniels, head-to-head at Peoria. Who do ya got?