Rider Spotlight: Henry Wiles
NEWS December 22, 2011
Photo by Dave Hoenig
Henry Wiles took time out of his off-season to sit down and be in the Rider Spotlight. Among the many things we discussed with “Hammerin’ Hank,” we really discovered how passionate he is for flat track racing, and how anxious he is to see the sport grow, as a whole. In the time he’s lining everything up for the 2012 season, Henry is promoting a race at the end of January. He stepped up to promote an indoor ice race in Flint, Michigan.
AMAPro: How’s your off-season going so far?
HW: It’s going pretty well. Though, a little uneventful.. I raced a motocross race around Halloween and a flat track race shortly after. I haven’t been on the bike in a little bit, so it’s kind of a bummer. I’m putting everything together for next year, so I’m excited for that. It’s not very hard to twist my arm in the morning to go ride motorcycles. I feel pretty blessed and fortunate to have what I do going for me, so I’m pleased to try and give back whenever I can. I’m sometimes too passionate about this sport.haha
AMAPro: Where are you from?
HW: Winn, Michigan. It’s actually been pretty mild so far this winter. There’s no ice or snow. I had someone from Illinois call and ask if they could come up and do some ice riding, but we’ve got nothing so far. It’s starting to cool off and stay in the freezing rain temperatures.
AMAPro: What was your very first bike?
HW: I had a PW-50. I’m not sure what year it was, but the first time I rode it, I was 3. From what I’m told, I got on it, turned the throttle wide open, and the ride didn’t last very long, which is why I probably don’t remember it.hahaha They put it away until I was 4. Once I got back on it, I have been riding it ever since.
AMAPro: How’d you get into riding motorcycles?
HW: My dad has always been into motorcycles. They grew up on a small farm, so he couldn’t afford a motorcycle until after highschool. He had a dirtbike, raced and such. Then he got me a bike.
AMAPro: Out of all the motorcycles you’ve ridden, which one would you say stands out the most?
HW: I’ve always been pretty fortunate to win a few nationals back when I first started. I was immediately able to run strong throughout my amateur career. I think the CR500 I rode back then had a lot to do with my riding style today. That bike wasn’t a tamed down version, it was the ‘everything done to it’ version. When I first got it at 13 years old, I rode a 2 hour hare-scramble. I actually started the race 5 minutes late! I went as fast as I could, had no concept of pacing myself. It was hard to start, and of course I stalled it throughout the race. Between kick-starting the bike and overshooting turns, it physically wore me down enough to ride it smoothly. I got to within a minute of the leaders, but ended up finishing second. I won the old Daytona Short Track race on it. I still don’t know how I rode it, but it taught me a lot about throttle control.
AMAPro: What’s your favorite racetrack?
HW: Peoria’s definitely the most fun for me. It’s where I won my first national, and the crowd is really awesome. With over 15,000-20,000 people there, it’s really great to go out and win on such a large stage. Another track I really like is Lima. The racing is great because there are so many different lines you can take. It all depends on you as a rider, yet you can ride it really hard. Lima will override your before you override it! Guys that will typically be at the front in points won’t have the best results at Lima; just like Peoria, it’s a rider’s track!
AMAPro: What draws you to the sport? The competition, thrill or speed?
HW: All of the above! It’s the competition that keeps me coming back. The competition, not necessarily everybody else, but more so myself. I’ve won 20 grand nationals now, and not many people would think I’ve won that many races. Now that Chris Carr’s retired, Kenny Coolbeth is the winningest active rider, where Jake Johnson and myself are below him. It’s going to be a really good group of us next season. There’s a lot of younger talent moving up as well, which will really make the racing good.
AMAPro: How big of a factor does riding motocross factor into flat track racing?
HW: I actually don’t ride that much motocross; people have that misconception. When I was younger, I did motocross in the spring and dirt track in the summer. To go practice motocross was easier to go ride, and less dependent on the weather, but I think not riding motocross makes a difference in my flat track riding. Last season, I didn’t ride that much motocross at all. With our sport being as specialized as it was, a lot of riders don’t need to ride motocross. People think they have to ride motocross to be fast, but that’s not the case at all. You can get hurt very easily with the 450cc motocross bikes, because they’re so powerful. The tracks are bigger and faster, so you have to be very careful riding.
AMAPro: What’s a typical day like for you?
HW: I was on a little bit of hunting kick for a while there. I also work with a marketing group in my spare time. Once you factor in the girlfriend, my time is pretty full! Seriously though, there isn’t a typical day. Every day, I’m working to get next year’s program secured, and I have so many things going on.
AMAPro: Who would you consider as your racing hero?
HW: I have more than one for different reasons. Ricky Graham was one of my dirt track racing heroes, along with Chris Carr. I know I’ve been fortunate enough to see Chris in his winning days, and because I’ve been paying attention of how he runs his program, I understand the entire situation much better than other guys I race with. As far as being a professional in our sport, Chris has really shown that. Ricky Graham would be the fastest guy on any given day. He was hard to beat and everybody knew it. That always impressed me.
What's your take?
What helmet related rumors would you like answered or clarification on? Ex: When do you replace a helmet, how long does a helmet last, etc.