By Tara Hurlin
When I arrived at the brand new M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan on Friday, August 19th, I immediately heard tires shredding against the freshly-tarred skid pad. 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. All that was missing was the kiss.
Roadkill, a series that airs on MotorTrend, is known for their automotive chaos: David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan work together to hunt down and purchase affordable, rough-looking car projects to get them back on the road as inexpensively as possible. It’s all about having fun, even when they are roughing it on the side of the road. They joined forces with Dodge to present fans with an epic event called Roadkill Nights. Last year was a success, and this year was even bigger: For the first time ever, Woodward Avenue was closed for legal drag racing.
I was about to join over 30,000 people for an entire day on Woodward Avenue, Roadkill style. First stop, a joyride in a Dodge Hellcat.
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 their 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.
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 will 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 exactly what I love about Roadkill.
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 was found at a local parts store just in time for the Challenger to be re-assembled 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 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 the track’s concrete barriers. Maintaining traction on the street wasn’t easy, but these guys had skills, 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.) 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.
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. Standing with him in the winner’s circle were the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place winners of the All-Run fast four: Bryant Golstone with his ’73 AMC Javelin, Adam Hodson and his ’73 Camaro, and Mike Moore’s 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.)
Want more? Good vibes are in the photo gallery below!
This article originally posted on Driving Line.