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Roadkill Nights Comes on Strong

Fan crowd Woodward Avenue to catch event.

by on Aug.14, 2017

Thousands of Dodge and muscle car fans flocked to Pontiac, Michigan, for Roadkill Nights.

Despite some rain showers that left a quarter mile of Woodward Avenue’s asphalt too wet for the final heats, “Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge” again drew a large crowd of car buffs, young and old to Pontiac, a suburb north of Detroit.

“I’m a gear head,” said Cameron Milavec, 18, of New Baltimore, Michigan, who drove in with a group of friends as evening settled over Pontiac’s M1-Concourse, the 87-acre “playground for automobiles,” which has become the venue of choice for the event with its noise and smoking tires and fast cars.

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“We’re into diesels,” said Milavec, who explained both he and his pal, River Lamb, 18, also of New Baltimore, own diesel-powered heavy-duty pickups as they watched the last-ditch effort to dry off the track under bright floodlights for what would have been the final heats of the day.

Overall, Roadkill, combined drag races with the atmosphere of a state fair, complete with muscle car displays and, replacing the normal carney rides, visitors stood in hour-long lines for thrill rides in the 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, Charger SRT Hellcat and 645-hp Dodge Viper. The lines were only slightly shorter for dyno runs and the Dodge Demon drag racing simulator.

Fans waited more than an hour for thrill rows in an assortment of Dodge muscle cars.

Add a parade of over 200 Dodge Vipers and there was plenty to keep a crowd estimated at more than 30,000 busy, even when a short cloudburst briefly put the drag strip on hold.

The drag racing was clearly the big draw, however, and it expanded this year with a total cash purse of $29,000 up for grabs during the day-long gathering.

Tim Kuniskis, FCA head of passenger car sales, said before the racing began 150 drivers had signed up to participate. Each car was expected to race down Woodward at least three times for about more than 500 runs, he said. As with what you might find on a conventional drag strip, Roadkill Nights drew an eclectic mix, from a ’70s-era Chevy Nova station wagon to a current top fuel dragster making more than 10,000 horsepower. There were plenty of converted muscle cars, including an original Dodge Challenger making 2,500 horsepower and clearing the traps at the end of the quarter mile in barely 5 seconds.

(Roadkill Nights brought first-ever legal road racing to Pontiac last year. Click Here to check it out.)

Roadkill Nights gave amateur racers a chance to win $10,000 in a good old fashioned drag race.

The participants in the open portion of the competition, which included cars from Chevrolet, Ford and Nissan, were racing $19,000 in prize money.  “What that’s going to do is going to do is bring in some of the top talent from across the country with some of the fastest street-legal cars,” Kuniskis said.

Also up for grabs was a $10,000 prize for quickest Dodge car with a Dodge engine in the competition, which was punctuated by a special run by 10,000-hp dragster and a celebrity challenge featuring Demons and Hellcats.

“We’re selling 700- and 800- horsepower cars,” Kuniskis added. “We have a responsibility to show you shouldn’t races these cars on the street,” he said. But rather race them under controlled conditions on a track.

Roadkill has been moving around since it was first launched three years back as a sideshow to the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. That event is a paean to the days when classic muscle cars routinely cruised down Metro Detroit’s main drag. Today, the Dream Cruise routinely attracts more than 1 million spectators and as many as 50,000 to 60,000 muscle cars, hot rods and other cruisers.

An eclectic mix of muscle cars. Roadkill was open to everyone, including Ford and Mustang fans.

This year, Roadkill was moved up a week ahead of Dream Cruise, however, said Elena Scherr, one of the organizers, because of scheduling challenges with the current site. It has now taken over the new M1 Concours, a private track in Pontiac, as well as a mile-long stretch of Woodward Avenue itself.

“It’s very exciting to race on a drag strip,” said Scherr, who also serves as editor of RoadkillNights.com, “but to do it on the same street where you might commute to work — and you won’t get a ticket? That’s great, especially when you add the historical element,” Woodward Ave.’s significance to the muscle car and cruising scene.

Roadkill, which this year served as a lead-in for Woodward Dream cruise, which in past has drawn crowds approaching 1 million, also is helping change the perceptions of Dodge.

(Click Here to see what it’s like to actually drag race Dodge’s 840-hp Demon.)

While Fiat Chrysler’s Dodge division is believed to have invested millions of dollars to sponsor the 2017 event, Roadkill Nights was opened to Chevrolet, Mustang, Honda and Nissan fans, too — and for a reason, Kuniskis told TheDetroitBureau.com.

There were plenty of "sleepers," like this old wagon, that tore up the drag strip.

“I want those people to have a different impression of Dodge,” he said. “Dodge is cool. Dodge just doesn’t build fast cars Dodge knows who we are as enthusiasts and is celebrating that,” said Kuniskis, who added he is proud of the fact that during the past three years the event has drawn a decidedly younger crowd — younger by far than the crowd for the Dream Cruise itself

“The people who say kids aren’t into cars need to see this. Kids are still into cars. But they’re into cool emotional cars that get them excited. They’re not into A to B cars. This stuff gets them excited because it’s different and unique,” he said. “The Demon is the Super Bowl that you can touch.”

Kuniskis said Roadkill Powered by Dodge is a “huge undertaking,” so he didn’t want to promise it would be back next summer. But chances are good that Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge will become a regular event in the future the weekend before the Dream Cruise.

(For more details on how the Dodge Demon turns out 840 hp, Click Here.)

“It’s something you don’t want to miss,” said Kuniskis.

(Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.)

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