The rumble could be heard a mile away when Dodge revved up its second annual event, RoadKill Nights Powered by Dodge.
Hundreds of turbocharged, dual exhaust, Hemi, Hellcat, 409, equipped vehicles from the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s along with those fresh out of the dealership idled patiently in line for a chance to drag legally on Woodward Avenue in Pontiac, putting pedal to the metal in their custom and restored racers.
This was the biggest assortment of big, bad vehicles I’ve ever seen. I’ve never heard anything so loud in my life. Everything that rumbled was tuned to peak performance.
“We like drag racing, lots of excitement,” says Jerry Tormala from Drydan who came with his son, Trevor, in a ’72 Dodge Demon. Trevor has own Dodge Demon and can’t wait to put it through the paces.
They were among 350 participants seeking a chance to win some of the $19,000 cash prizes for drag racers who would go from afternoon until late in the evening on this eve of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. Mike Moran of Taylor won top prize of $10,000 with his 1969 Dodge Charger powered by a 5.6-liter twin turbo Gen 2 HEMI® V-8, sped to a winning finish in an old-school grudge-style drag race. Three other competitors won smaller purses.
The momentum is so high for fast-car events visitors started arriving at 6:30 a.m. for a noon start time. More than 350 dragsters registered for the competition and 1,000 classic car owners came for the “show and shine” presentation. Fans also lined up for thrill rides in Dodge Charger SRT Hellcats, Challenger SRT Hellcats and Dodge Vipers on a drifting course with professional drivers.
“From a Dodge perspective, this was an absolutely epic event,” says Tim Kuniskis, head of Passenger Car Brands – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America.
“Performance is more than a set of numbers, it’s an attitude. More than 30,000 performance enthusiasts, triple the number that attended of last year, showed up to be a part of this incredible event – the first-ever legal drag racing on Woodward. Roadkill Nights is a tremendous opportunity to connect with our fellow performance enthusiasts, embrace those who are already Dodge owners and give potential owners a chance to get a real feeling what Dodge is all about,” he says.
Dodge decided to build its brand with a pre-party and offer dragsters a once in a lifetime chance to drag an eighth mile along Woodward the day before the giant Woodward Dream Cruise. The Mecca of muscle cars stretches from Nine Mile Road in Ferndale to downtown Pontiac with car shows, parades, live bands, food trucks and a nonstop parade of new and historic cars along Woodward.
FCA and the Dodge team spent nine months planning this year’s motor festival at the new M-1 Concourse, a race track on the site of the old General Motors Truck and Bus plant. The first event drew 10,000 people with only six weeks planning and was staged at the defunct Pontiac Silverdome. The M-1 Concourse offered an 87-acre playground for auto enthusiasts and a 1.5-mile performance track.
Eric Schwab, the chief commercial officer of TEN: The Enthusast Network in Royal Oak that planned and branded RoadKill Nights, says an earlier event drew 15,000 people in Kansas City, echoing how popular fast cars are across America. The team put their heart and soul this year for a memorable event for whole families. A company called FM3 coordinated the drag race. All drivers had to provide proof of insurance, agree to wear a helmet and support all the rules.
“There’s a big call for amateur motor racing,” Berj Alexanian, Dodge spokesperson says. “Being at a live event is so much more fun than watching racing on television. There’s the thrill and enjoyment of driving hard and fast.”
Special guests included Richard Rawlings, host of the Dallas-based Gas Monkey Garage on the Discovery Channel, and David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan, co-hosts of RoadKill, which FCA asserts is one of the most viewed YouTube.com automotive series around. Dodge is the chief sponsor of the series.
“We’re letting the brand do the talking. Customers build appreciation by watching the cars perform,” Alexanian says.
Beyond the car show, Dodge and the EnthusiastNetwork.com had plenty of eye candy from a vehicle resembling Tow Motor in the movie Cars to one of the widest variety of drag racers in any one Detroit location.
Watching the cars zoom by was tough hungry work. Long lines formed at the food trucks which included The Mean Weenie, Hero or Villain, Detroit’s Gourmet Deli, Detroit Barbecue, Marcont’s Pizza and the MacShack.
They picked the right spot. M-1 Concourse’s literature says the spot will draw the largest concentration of auto enthusiasts in the world to a venue to enjoy their passion with friends and family. It seems have accomplished that.
Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines.
– Lead photo courtesy of Dodge