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Roadkill Nights: The Good, The Bad and the Soggy

by Patrick Rall on

The 2017 Roadkill Nights by Dodge events in Pontiac, Michigan brought about a second year of action-packed, legal street racing on Woodward Avenue, with a huge car show, food trucks, thrill rides in Hellcat cars, and lots of Dodge-themed attractions at the M1 Concourse near Detroit.

Unfortunately, this second year of racing on Woodward (the third year overall) also brought about the worst weather that we have seen for a Detroit Roadkill event; the fun was hampered by Mother Nature’s damp mood.

Attendees from the 2016 Roadkill Nights by Dodge event had complaints about getting into the venue, but once you were inside the gates, it was a great time. Some drivers didn’t love the lack of organization and the number of runs that they received relative to others, but if you ask most of the spectators and many of the races, the first Roadkill event at M1 was good.

For the 2017 Roadkill Nights by Dodge event, some things improved and some things did not, with weather clogging up the racing program before eventually ending the event altogether.

The Good
The biggest headache with the 2016 event was getting into the venue, but the organizer solved the parking and traffic problems for 2017, so there was very little wait to get parked or to get into the track. The racing action began at 11 am, as scheduled, and even with the overnight rain making the track a little slick, the early street racing program was moving along quickly, in front of thousands of fans.

There were food trucks with all sorts of culinary options, tons of Dodge-themed displays with freebies and a chance to check out the likes of the Hellcat cars, the Viper, the Demon, and a handful of past Mopar machines. There was a huge car show (technically a show-and-shine since there were no awards) which wrapped around the center of the track, with all makes and models of vehicles – although there was a heavy Mopar presence.

During the first half hour of the 2017 Roadkill Nights by Dodge event, it appeared to be running smoothly, shy of the long lines for the Hellcat and Viper thrill rides.

The a turbocharged Chevrolet Chevette pulled into the burnout box and while the driver didn’t know it, he was about to practically ruin the event.

The Bad
Around 11:45am, a little Chevette with a turbocharged V8 rumbled to the line and made what appeared to be a pretty solid run down the track, but when the driver opted not to let off at the end of the eighth mile, he found his Chevy compact traveling far too fast to make the turn onto the return road. The Chevette slid into the curb, flipped over the retaining wall, and tumbled through the perimeter fence behind the wall. The car then burst into flames; and while the driver escaped without injury, a spectator behind got a few stitches under his eye where a piece of falling fencing struck him.

In addition to putting out the fire around the Chevy and making sure that everyone around the end of the track was okay, the track team had to make repairs and additions to the safety barriers, which took around two long hours.

Just before 2 pm, the Roadkill racing on Woodward Avenue started back up, but within an hour, a light rain forced the track officials to halt the racing while the track crew worked to dry the damp track. It took them half an hour, but they got back to racing around 3 pm or so – and then it rained again. Not a serious rain, just enough to bring the track crew out to dry the surface, causing a half hour or so delay each time. Around 4 pm, they were back to racing, but sometime between 5 and 5:30, the organizers ended time trials to begin the Roadkill exhibition runs and the Celebrity Hellcat Shootout. With all of the stoppages for the crash and rain, each racer got 2 passes at the rate of $50 per run.

Between 5:30pm and 7pm, there were only a handful of runs as the Roadkill team worked to get the ’55 Chevy “Blasphemi” running right, during which time they easily could have run lots of racers down the track; instead, they wasted more than an hour of track time trying to send the Hemi-powered Chevy down the track a few times.

Then they got into the Celebrity Hellcat Shootout, which was just as slow moving as the exhibition runs. There were 8 drivers, so the first round had four races and the second round had two races. Those six runs took somewhere in the area of an hour (if not more) and there was seemingly no reason for the lengthy delays between runs. You can watch Matt Hagan get a first-round win in the video below.

Then, shortly after 8pm, as Matt Hagan advanced to the finals, the rain started back up and what started as a light rain turned to a downpour – soaking the Woodward Ave track and the M1 grounds.

The Soggy
After that hard rain around 8:30pm, the Roadkill track crew immediately got to work to try to dry out the wet road as the 2 Demons intended to be run in the finals of the Celebrity Hellcat Shootout sat at the burnout box, covered with water. The crew spent the better part of 2 hours working, but the hard rain was just too much. The organizers made the call to effectively end the event, so the celebrity finals were not run, nor were the money rounds for the main racing program.

The $10,000 cash prize for the celebrity race was split in half and $5,000 went to the charities represented by each of the two men in the finals (Matt Hagan and Tony Angelo).

As for the main racing program, Lenny Melton and his classic Dodge Dart (shown in the video below) took home the $10,000 check for being the quickest Dodge and the four vehicles in the quick 4 shootout – none of which were Dodge products – all split the remaining pot of $19,000, so they each took home $4,750.

So, while the racing program had a disappointing ending for the fans due to the rain, four racers took home $4,750 each, a Dodge racer took home $10,000 and a pair of charity groups each got $5,000.

The combination of the early crash, the rain throughout the day and the hard rain after the sun went down took a major toll on the racing program, but the 2017 Roadkill Nights by Dodge event was still a popular outing for many who attended. Hopefully, 2018 will be free of crashes and rain, so that the racers will get more runs and everyone will be happy.

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.


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