by Patrick Rall
This past weekend [August 2016], the crew from the Internet show Roadkill headed to Pontiac, Michigan for the second event of their 2016 Roadkill Nights by Dodge series. After a success at the old Pontiac Silverdome last year, the 2016 Roadkill Detroit event was moved to the new M1 Concourse racing facility, also in Pontiac.
This year, Roadkill promised bigger and better things — including legal street racing on Woodward Avenue — and they made good on that promise. The 2016 Roadkill Nights by Dodge drew more racers, more show cars, and three times as many spectators as in 2015, creating a massive event that dazzled more than 30,000 people.
I was there from beginning to end of the 2016 Roadkill Nights by Dodge event in Detroit, just like I was last year, and today Allpar brings you a thorough rundown of what went on at the M1 Concourse and on the road out front.
Since the Roadkill Nights by Dodge event went down last Friday, I have spoken with a great many people who attended the event – including show’n shine participants, racers and spectators. While the vast majority of the folks with whom I spoke at the event and in the days since then had a fantastic time at Roadkill Night in Detroit, there were some downsides to this year’s events.
The angriest folks online have been the loudest, so even though most people (including myself, my wife and my dad) had a great time at the event, I don’t want to ignore those who didn’t love every aspect of the event.
First and foremost, traffic was a major problem around an hour before the event began. The track was slated to officially open at noon and racing was scheduled to begin at 1pm. I got into the Pontiac area around 11:30am, and it was shortly before 1pm when I finally got into the venue. It took me that long to navigate the brutal traffic leading into the parking event, and as traffic piled up around the only entry point to the event, traffic on the road arounds the venue began to back up.
At first, there was no traffic control of any kind provided by the venue, and when the police got there, they didn’t have any idea where to send people. As a result, cars were trying to merge from one lane to another in traffic that was barely moving.
The last mile took me about an hour to travel; during that time, I spoke with friends who were also trying to get into the event. Several people who wanted to participate gave up and paid to park outside of the event. Some people who had planned to show up at the track with a low tank of gasoline (so that their cars were lighter while racing) found themselves running out of gas before getting into the track. One classic Oldsmobile behind me in traffic caught fire while we were sitting there.
However, after the brutal wait, we made it to our parking lot and into the event. Once there, I didn’t have a single thing to complain about, outside of the occasional rain showers later in the middle of the event. Other than the traffic, none of the show-n-shine participants and none of the spectators with whom I spoke had anything bad to say about the event – and I understand. It really was a great time, but I will get into that shortly.
The other vocally unhappy group is mainly a handful of racers who spent their day arguing for more runs down the track, but in many cases, they only had a single run. One of the guys who only got one run was Josh Schwartz of High Horse Performance, who was there in the world’s quickest Hellcat Challenger. Josh made one run and was told to return to his pit area until he was called back. While other vehicles made run after run, Josh and the world’s quickest Hellcat never made it onto the track again – and he wasn’t the only one who ran into that issue.
According to a few people, the racing program behind the scenes was a disorganized mess, but none of that showed through to the spectators on hand, as the racing action was fast and furious. So, while the traffic heading to the event was frustrating and some racers didn’t get as many runs as others, that was the extent of the problems at the Roadkill Nights by Dodge event in Pontiac.
The Roadkill Nights by Dodge event at M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan was split up into five main areas. When you entered, you walked up a wood chip-lined path, through a short display area with a handful of automotive companies and when you emerged from that path, you found yourself in the center of the whole event.
Immediately to your left was a tent with an array of Roadkill custom vehicles and immediately to your right was the food truck area, with a diverse collection of tasty, inexpensive foods and drinks.
Beyond the Roadkill tent was the huge show’n shine area, with the vehicles on display lining both sides of a lengthy stretch of the M1 road course. According to FCA, more than a thousand cars were there to show off during the course of the day and while it was mostly Mopar, there was a nice mix of non-Mopar show vehicles as well. If you discount the heavy number of Mopar vehicles, it was a surprisingly unique car show crowd, with vehicles from a wide variety of automotive subcultures.
Directly ahead of everyone who walked up the entry path into the M1 Concourse was the large tarmac area in which Dodge hosted their thrill ride program. Spectators were invited to go for a high performance ride in the Hellcat Challenger, the Hellcat Charger and the Dodge Viper with a professional driver at the wheel. This was free of charge and although the line was long, several people commented to me that it was one of the most exciting rides of their lives. Below is a short video showing the thrill ride in action.
Also near the thrill ride area was a spread of Dodge displays with new vehicles, a stage with live music, an NHRA funny car, and the chance to sign up for some free Dodge goodies.
Finally, just beyond the food truck area, came the end of the Roadkill Nights by Dodge spread, with four large grandstands lining an 8th mile long stretch of Woodward Avenue (the race track for the evening). The thrill rides and Dodge displays were cool, the food trucks were great and the show’n’shine was impressive, but it was the racing program that served as the crown jewel of the Roadkill Nights by Dodge Detroit event.
When it was first announced that the new M1 Concourse racing facility would host the 2016 Roadkill Nights by Dodge event in Metro Detroit, many assumed that the racing action would take place on the race track. That would have been plenty fun for racers and spectators, but the organizers took things one step further – getting the city’s approval to hold the racing portion of the Roadkill Nights by Dodge event on Woodward Avenue.
This isn’t a play on words or some technicality that had the cars racing on some random stretch of road labeled as Woodward Avenue. The cars raced on a main stretch of Woodward, on the same surface which locals had been driving on just 24 hours earlier. The entire stretch was safely blocked off on both ends, with concrete barriers on both sides of the track from the burnout box to the area where the racers turned to head back to their pit area. The video below shows the very first run of the program, so this match between a 1970 Hemi Challenger and a 2015 Hellcat Challenger was the first ever legal street race held on Woodward Ave.
While there were no scoreboards like you have at a real drag strip, there was a starting line “Christmas tree” with a proper laser starting system and finish line. The road surface at the starting line was treated with a sticky chemical used by drag strips to improve traction and unlike last year, the burnout box was far enough from the starting line that racers weren’t tracking water up to the starting line.
However, even with the extra space between the burnout box and the starting line and even with the sticky chemicals sprayed on the driving surface, getting away from the line in a hurry proved to be very difficult for many. If you are thinking “of course it was slippery, they were racing on the street,” you would be among the majority of racers, but some people seemed to be legitimately surprised that the Roadkill Racing on Woodward track wasn’t as perfectly sticky as their home race track. The video below shows a Hellcat Challenger struggled to get traction.
This slippery street surface led to some major traction issues for the less skilled drivers, also leading to some incredible track-long burnouts – which were even more impressive than usual on the narrow track. Fortunately, as the day went on, the more skilled drivers figured out how to launch their cars on Woodward Ave and the racing action got better as the event went on.
The prize for the Dodge (cars only) Fast Four was $10,000 and the prize for the non-Dodge Fast Four was $500, so as you can probably imagine, the field was thick with Dodge cars. With roughly 350 cars registered to race, the majority were either Dodge cars or some other Chrysler brand, but both Ford and GM were well represented and there were even a few impressively quick imports. Among the dozens of modern Challengers and Chargers, there were plenty of classic Dodge muscle cars competing with a spread of Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, Chevrolet Corvettes, a few Nissan GTRs, a Lamborghini, and a handful of other cars as well as a few trucks. There was even a turbo first gen Dodge minivan, which hung shockingly close to a Challenger SRT8 (check out the video below).
Best of all, even with the traction issues, there were very few problems on the track; a few cars ran into engine or transmission issues, and a couple got dangerously close to the wall. One Toyota Supra burst into flames at the starting line and one Ford Mustang had its exhaust system fall off near half track. However, there were no accidents, no injuries, and no real issues with racing on the slippery street. There may have been some frustrated racers who wanted more runs, but for the crowd, the racing action really wasn’t fantastic.
During the heads-up grudge match portion of the Roadkill racing program which ran from 1pm until 7 or so, all vehicles raced against each other at random with a pro tree. During the course of those preliminary races, the organizers monitored the quickest Dodge cars in the field for the Dodge Fast Four at the end of the night. The racers and fans didn’t get to see or hear what the vehicles ran in terms of their elapsed time, but the organizers could and by using those figures, they picked their quickest Dodge cars out of the group.
The fast qualifier was a twin turbo Hemi-powered 1969 Dodge Charger owned and driven by Mike Moran. The second place qualifier was the 1968 Dodge Dart owned and driven by Greg Charney, which is powered by a 410 cubic inch, all aluminum sprint car engine. The third place qualifier was the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat owned and driver by Tom Drago (below, beating the Corvette) while the fourth place qualifying vehicle was the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat owned and driven by Michael Cole – both of which have some light modifications that help them run in the 10-second quarter mile range.
The format of the Roadkill Nights by Dodge for the Fast Four uses a round robin system where each of the four drivers got “his round.” running each competitor with lane choice. For example, in the first round, fast qualifier Mike Moran and his twin turbo Hemi Charger made a pass against Charney, Drago and Cole with lane choice. In the second round, Charney and his Dart ran each of the other three with lane choice. In the third round, it was Drago’s turn to pick his lanes and in the final round, Cole took on everyone with his Challenger in the lane of his choice. During those runs, the winner would get 5 points and the loser would get 3 points, except when the loser red lights – in which case he would get 0 points.
Not surprisingly, Mike Moran and his incredible twin turbo Hemi Charger (shown above) kicked everyone’s butt in the Fast Four point rounds, laying down awesome passes on the slick track and taking the win – with the $10,000 prize. Greg Charney and his Dart beat Drago and Cole each time, but not Moran, so he grabbed second place and a $5,000 prize. By beating Michael Cole in the fourth and final round, Tom Drago and his Hellcat Charger were able to secure the third place finish and a prize of $2,500 while Cole and his Challenger had to settle for the $1,500 fourth place prize.
The videos below show a run between Moran and Charney and another run between Drago and Cole.
Also see the Quickest Dodge Shootout (with video) and the Roadkill vs Fast N Loud Grudge Match (with video)
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