The Peoria TT has been a battleground for some of the best racing involving the legends of flat track, including such names as Kenny Roberts, Bubba Shobert, Joe Kopp, Chris Carr and Nicky Hayden. Most famous for its massive jump that landed in a right hand turn, it has been both the sweetheart and heartbreaker for the the best of racers. After claiming the win in the singles class two years ago, Hayden Gillim was excited to take a crack at the AFT Twins.
Last year the Peoria Motorcycle Club changed the layout of the track, removing the famous single jump and replacing it with two jumps, This new layout forced the racers to cut their speed on the first jump so as not to jump directly into the face of the second. The new jumps, along with riding his much more powerful Indian Scout FTR750, required Hayden to make some changes to the bike. Luckily, Hayden was surrounded by a solid team that included his brothers, his father (Frankie Lee), and JD Beach along with his temporary crew chief, John Cornwell. They all jumped into action taking advantage of the extra time provided by a delay brought by heavy rains and a muddy track. While the American Flat Track team and the Peoria Motorcycle Club worked to get the track into shape, Hayden, Frankie Lee, JD and John swapped out the fork springs, handlebars, and clutch to make sure it was set-up for the unique demands of the TT.
With a shortened timetable, only 2 qualifying/practice sessions were run before heading straight into the semi-finals, no heat races. Hayden had to get to work work in short order. In the second qualifying session, he set the second fastest time—massively encouraging as it was his first Twins experience here. After some minor gearing changes, Hayden lined up for the semis to see what he could do. A bad start knocked him a handful of positions. He had put in some serious effort to get all the way up to second place, crossing the line behind Jake Johnson. Hayden found himself in a prime position for the main event.
With a confidence boost, Hayden went into the main event excited to be on the front row. History repeated itself as Hayden got off the line slow, dropping him behind the main pack. Undeterred, Hayden put his head down and after a few bar bashing passes, was up at the front chasing third-place Jake Johnson with Jared Mees on his tail. Shortly thereafter in the 25-lap contest, Hayden had a big moment off the jumps, nearly flying off the inside of the track. Mees passed him on the main straight, knocking him back to fifth place. Hayden l took a look over his shoulder to find that a big gap back to sixth place. He decided to not risk a top-five finish by pushing to hard at the end and kept his pace to the checkers. Happy with his result and overall finishes in his first three races in the Twins class, he loaded his Indian Scout FTR750 into the van to get ready for his final race of the season at the second Springfield Mile.