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Roadkill Gives Dream Cruise a New Look

New event brings out younger car fans.

by on Aug.22, 2016

Roadkill Nights powered by Dodge attracted more than 20,000 racing fans to see the first-ever legal street racing on Woodward Avenue.

The first legal road races ever held on Woodward Avenue drew a huge crowd during the annual Woodward Dream Cruise as drivers with smoking tires and burned rubber on the pavement in dozens and dozens of two-car races that drew participants from all over the U.S. and an impressive range of vehicles.

“I’m here for the sheer fun of it,” said Tanner Sullivan of Huntington, Indiana, as he prepared to race a 1970 AMC Javelin for an eighth of a mile at the invitation of the “Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge.”

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“I don’t know if we will ever be able to do this again. It is special,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of passenger cars for FCA, who noted that FCA, Dodge and Roadkill, the YouTube channel created by Motor Trend and Hot Rod magazines.

Dodge and Roadkill had tested the concept last year the Friday Night before the Dream Cruise by setting up a drag strip in the parking lot of the old Pontiac Silverdome. Promoted via social media, the event drew hundreds of drivers willing to participate in the races.

Carlos Lago of Roadkill says the first event was a major success and Roadkill and Dodge decided to expand it with the altogether “crazy” idea of putting the races on Woodward. “We’re amazed it happened,” he said.

Hundreds of racers took their chance to smoke the tires and make a pass on the Woodward Avenue track during the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

On Friday the best estimate was the event attracted more than 20,000 people, many of whom took off from work to enjoy the races and the State Fair like atmosphere created on property of the M1 Concourse, a private race track that is being developed on the site of the demolished General Motors truck plant that used to face Woodward Avenue.

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“We have music. We have food. We have entertainment. We have displays,” he noted. Most of all they had cars. Roadkill brought a collection of vehicles built in its Los Angeles garage. There was a large sampling of classic cars from around Detroit and Dodge had its product line, including the soon-to-disappear Viper, on prominent display.

People also stood in line patiently for a chance to take a thrill ride on a skid pad with one of Dodge’s professional drivers.

The races themselves also produced their share of excitement for the spectators who filled the grandstands along Woodward as driver’s tested everything from expensive cars like Corvettes and Vipers on the short strip as well as classic muscle cars, SUVs and trucks, including a fair number with foreign nameplates.

The heats began at noon with the participants lining up along Woodward for a shot at roaring to the strip. Some of the racing, which left Woodward blackened with rubber and chunks of tires, was more serious as Dodge also put up $20,000 in prize money for the fastest cars in a series of heats run as twilight stole over the grandstands.

Muscle car fans lined up to take a ride in the Challenger simulator during the Roadkill Nights event.

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The Roadkill event also seemed mark a changing of the guard. The traditional Woodward Dream Cruise, which began back in the 1990s, leaned heavily on nostalgia as the cruisers brought out their Poodle Skirts and music from the 1950s and 1960s as well as classic cars to reminisce about cars that had vanished from everyday life. It also helped make Detroit’s muscle cars into collector’s items.

But times are changing and car companies face challenges reaching a younger, more tech savvy audience.

Kuniskis said one of the great things about Roadkill was that it brought out decidedly younger crowd than the traditional Woodward Dream Cruise, which was chance for Baby Boomers to show off their affection for automobiles.

Even the music from the concert stage setup for Roadkill inside the M1 Concourse was decidedly more up to date than the typical Beach Boy songs that year after year seemingly served as the sound track for the Dream Cruise.

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Lago said the popularity of Roadkill’s YouTube channel underscores that millennials do like cars and car culture, which is just finding its space through social media and different events. “It’s not that there aren’t enthusiasts. There are. They just enjoy different things.”

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