Over 15,000 expected for Sunday's Grand National TT race

By Marc Strauss

August 20, 2010 Updated Aug 20, 2010 at 9:47 PM CDT

Over the years Jay Williamson has turned almost as many laps around the Peoria Motorcycle Club track as some riders.

Williamson is head of the track crew. One of his most important jobs is driving the truck that waters the track ahead of Sunday's Grand National TT race.

"It has to be just right," said Williamson. "If its too dry its dusty and that's dangerous to the riders. If its too wet we have to spend a lot of time fixing that problem and we don't want to do that on race day. We want the show to go off real fast."

The ringmaster of the show is Bert Sanders. This is his 26th year as race director. If there's one thing he's learned, its that no race goes off without a hitch. He cited one recent example.

"The track was ready and a week ahead of time we got a big gully-washer and we could have run motor boat races out here," said Sanders. "The track was under water and this concession stand behind us had water running through it."

Over 15,000 race fans will pack themselves around the Peoria Motorcycle Club track on Sunday. That makes it the largest annual one-day sporting event in Peoria County.

About half of the crowd comes from out of town. Sanders says one year he recalls meeting a group of fans from New Zealand.

Of course, there are still some bugs to work out before race day, as volunteer Ron McFall found out when he tried to enter this infield concession stand.

"There were about 200 wasps around the doors," said race volunteer Ron McFall, who was spraying for bugs Friday morning. "That's a problem that's got to be cleared up. It would be bad if it wasn't cleared up before Sunday."

Volunteers are also stocking up food and drinks for the weekend crowds.

"We're loading up the concession stands. We've got to get the flags and the pennants out, distribute the barrels and all of the finishing touches to make it look neat and be more fan friendly," said Sanders.

Those fans will gather to see if defending champ Henry Wiles can continue his streak and win his 5th straight Peoria Grand National TT title.