Nostalgic Street Racing Leaves Its Mark During Roadkill Nights
When I saw the Roadkill vehicles parked strategically in a row on the empty parking lot of the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan, last Friday, August 19th, my uncaffeinated-paced walk transitioned into a slow run that resembled a corny chick flick scene – a lustful woman dramatically running to her long-lost lover, arms wide open. The only thing missing was the kiss.
To some, “Roadkill” might only summon unsettling highway-side images of unfortunate critters rather than an automotive show from MotorTrend. The series is all about having fun, even when roughing it on the side of the road in another adventure to hunt down and purchase affordable, rough-looking car projects and get them rolling again. Last year, Roadkill joined forces with Dodge to present Woodward Dream Cruise attendees and fans and epic event called Roadkill Nights.
They one-upped themselves this year, closing off Woodward Avenue for street-legal drag racing!
Viewing Roadkill’s General Mayhem, Mazdarati, Muscle Truck and Stubby Bob outside of the television screen at first seemed surreal, but then reality hit me like ice on sunburn. I was about to join over 30,000 people for an entire day on Woodward Avenue, Roadkill style.
The Smells and the Sounds:
The smell of smoked tires crept farther up my nostrils as I approached the skid pad. Tires screamed bloody murder under the deep rumbling power of the Dodge Hellcats, when suddenly a loud “POP!” reverberated through the atmosphere. The first tire out of hundreds that would meet its demise that day gave in to the hot pavement’s abuse.
Thanks to Dodge, spectators were able to feel a Hellcat’s power for themselves, and I was the first one in (right after Detroit Fox News and a few others who were running the show). The Hellcat took off faster than a viper strike and drifted around corners as if the tires were made of butter.
Now it’s my turn to drive right? No? Aw, well, maybe next time.
Bringing Drag Racing Back to Life:
Roadkill Nights accomplished the impossible by being approved to run the first legal road races ever held on Woodward, which allowed people to re-live the old school drag races without the fear of being presented with a “high-performance driving certificate.” Anticipation flooded the crowd as the clock struck 1pm. Race time. The grounds rumbled for hours as cars, trucks and SUVs tested their limits and left behind deep black lines of rubber that’s sure to remain on the street for years to come.
I knew there were more activities going on outside of the races, but it was impossible to peel myself away. A 20-minute rain gave just enough time to mow down on some BBQ, use the ladies' room and browse the car show while Woodward dried enough for the next rounds. Each vehicle on display was a custom in its own right, whether by the hands of Mother Nature or by the owner’s innovation, and the diversity is best described with photos.
As I ping-ponged from car to car on each side of the M1 Concourse race course, I was suddenly jolted out of my custom car fantasyland, thanks to this creepy Exorcist chick. The shock quickly turned to laughter when I realized how ridiculous my reaction must have looked. It just caught me off-guard, okay?!
Crisis Averted, Victory Won:
Before sundown, Roadkill’s Dirt Track Challenger hit the strip, after swapping the rear end in their hotel’s parking lot, of course. To add to the suspense, a potentially disastrous hold-up caused by an incorrect u-joint was averted when the proper part surfaced at a local parts store just in time for the Challenger to be reassembled the day of the race, during lunch hour. According to Freiburger’s glee after the first burnout, the struggle and lack of sleep was all worth it.
The Night Is Welcome:
The smell of gas and burned rubber take on a whole new meaning after sunset. The lights over Woodward Avenue set the perfect ambiance for the ending of Roadkill Nights, resembling the nostalgic effect of flashlight drag racing. The cool night air was a relief for every spectator, and with the uncomfortable heat gone, the energy in the crowd rose. The engines sounded more determined than ever and the burnouts lasted longer.
The fastest remaining drivers raced head-to-head until the end. The crowd gasped in unison each time a competitor got squirrely between Woodward Avenue’s concrete barriers. Maintaining traction on the street wasn’t easy, but these guys had skill, and they weren’t messing around. Each vehicle in the winner’s circle was none worse for the wear, and the owner’s faces glowed in the darkness from the day’s rush of adrenaline.
In first place for the quickest Dodge was Mike Moran’s black 1969 twin-turbo Hemi Charger. (Duh, he was photographed as a line of black blur in several of my photos.)
Tom Bailey, known for his intimidating, record-breaking 1969 Chevy Camaro, is no one-trick pony. He took first place in the All-Run Fast Four class.
Runners up in the All-Dodge group were Greg Charney in his baby-blue ‘68 Dart, and Tom Drago and Micheal Cole with their modern Hellcat Charger SRTs.
Standing with them in the winner circle were the second, third and fourth place winners of the All-Run Fast Four: Bryant Golstone with his ’73 AMC Javelin, Adam Hodson with his ’73 Camaro and Mike Moore with his diesel Silverado.
We don’t know if this special event will ever happen again, but it is one that is sure to go down in history. #BecauseRoadkill. (Yeah, I just did that.)