Dodge ‘Roadkill Nights’ drag racing may be annual event – Detroit Free Press
Michigan’s drag-racing culture hit full throttle Wednesday night at the Pontiac Silverdome at an event that was so successful, Dodge brand CEO Tim Kuniskis is already talking about turning it into an annual event — and possibly even taking it to other cities.
“I think I just committed us to doing it again,” Kuniskis said after filming a TV segment with Richard Rawlings, whose racing team from the TV show “Gas Monkey Garage” had just won a drag-racing victory over David Freiberger of the Web-based TV show “Roadkill.”
And, by midafternoon Thursday, the automaker confirmed that it will bring the event back in 2016.
“After experiencing the incredible performance-enthusiast turnout, and after hundreds of requests to do it again, we’ve committed to teaming back up with ‘Roadkill’ to do it again next year,” Kuniskis said in a statement today. “We don’t know when or where, but trust us, it will be even bigger and better.”
The decision comes as no surprise. More than 10,000 racing fans and car enthusiasts attended the event Wednesday night on the Silverdome grounds, and many stayed until after the sun went down to watch the two car enthusiast shows battle it out in the head-to-head drag race.
After overcoming engine troubles that delayed the race by nearly a half-hour, Rawlings’ team’s custom-built 1967 Dodge Dart, outfitted with a 707-horsepower Dodge Hellcat engine, easily beat the 1968 Dodge Charger — also powered by a Dodge Hellcat engine — fielded by the ‘Roadkill’ team.
That drag race capped off an evening of free events that also featured hundreds of drag races that were open to members of the public who registered their car in advance. More than 200 registered to race their cars on a temporary, 1/8 mile drag race strip constructed on a portion of the parking lot at the Silverdome.
More than 7,000 registered to attend the event and fewer than two hours into the evening, Kuniskis said it was an obvious success that the company and its partners could take to other cities.
“There have been quite a few people saying this could be duplicated,” Kuniskis told the Free Press.
Dodge already has an multievent concept it calls “Dodge Rock City” that it takes to the Woodward Dream Cruise and to other cities.
“I will tell you, this (Roadkill Nights) is a natural expansion of that idea,” he said.
The event was produced and overseen by TEN: The Enthusiast Network, a network of enthusiast brands and publications including “Roadkill,” a TV show.
Eric Schwab, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the network, said the goal was to create a festival environment for families and provide a safe environment for racing.
“We want this to be an annual event. We are planning already on coming back next year,” Schwab said. “We’ve even had conversations about expanding it in other markets across the country.”
Kuniskis said true drag-racing professionals were brought in to design and build the track, and conduct safety checks on the cars and Breathalyzer tests.
“This is exactly like being at a real professional drag strip,” he said. “We just happen to be at the Silverdome.”
Wednesday’s drag races pitted souped-up Volkswagen Beetles against Cadillacs, Nissan sports cars, classic muscle cars and pickups. Owners of Dodge vehicles competed to win a free, 6.2-liter Hellcat engine from Dodge.
Tyler Teague of Burton emerged as a crowd favorite as his blue, 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup literally smoked the competition in several qualifying races. Teague’s heavily outfitted Cummins diesel engine with a twin turbo spewed thick black smoke out of an exhaust pipe vertically mounted in the truck bed each time it fired off of the starting line.
“I think I might have a decent shot at winning just because I‘ve watched a lot of people burn their tires, and I have four-wheel drive,” Teague said.
The final public race matched Teague’s pickup against a yellow 1969 Dodge Super Bee with a rebuilt 440 six-pack engine driven by Brandon Phillips, 33, of Sterling Heights.
With a better start, Phillips jumped off the line first and kept a slight lead throughout the race.
“His truck was overheating, and my car was still running like a champ,” Phillips said.
Phillips said he isn’t sure yet what he will do with the Hellcat engine.
“I’m going to put it into something, but I don’t know what yet,” he said. “I am still getting over the fact that I’ve got one.”
Brent Snavely: 313-222-6512, email@example.com or on Twitter @BrentSnavely