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Chilton Visits Roadkill Nights 2019 in Pontiac, MI

Chilton Roadkill Nights
Kelly at Roadkill Nights

We here at Chilton love all things automotive, and being located in Southern California gives us a chance to spectate and participate in many local events. However, there is a whole world out there, and occasionally we find ourselves thousands of miles away from some automotive awesomeness taking place in Louisville, or Daytona, or Detroit. Luckily, we have friends all over, like Michigan native Kelly Lett, who went to Roadkill Nights in Pontiac for us and sent us this report:

By: Kelly Lett - originally published at


Pontiac, MI was buzzing this past weekend with the return of Roadkill Nights powered by Dodge for the fifth year. While many consider it to be the unofficial kick-off to the Woodward Dream Cruise, the world’s largest single-day classic car event, this two-day celebration of speed and burnt rubber holds its own as a carnival for the car lover. Roadkill Nights bills itself as a legal street drag racing event held right on Woodward ave, with the blessing of the authorities, on a section closed to traffic right in front of M1 Concourse Motorsports Club.

Various Roadkill Project Cars

Always exciting, drag racing returns to its roots of the average Joe with a not so average car competing against one another from stoplight to stoplight, or in this case down a 1/8th-mile strip. This time it isn’t just for bragging rights though, but the chance at part of a $40,000 purse, and this year some 140 drivers from around the world signed up. Beyond the races, though, is an ever-growing selection of activities to keep everyone in the family entertained. Once you make it past the maze of bounce houses and food trucks you’ll be treated to freestyle motocross displays, dyno competitions, Dodge SRT Demon race simulators, and more.

Freestyle Motocross Action

But perhaps the biggest draw other than the races, and my personal favorite, was getting to ride along with a professional Dodge driver as he twisted, turned and drifted around a special track at M1 Concourse, where the event is held. Otherwise known as the Dodge Thrill Rides, the drifting started at 6 am and didn’t stop until after 8 pm Saturday. With over 50,000 attendees expected and an estimated 6,000 rides given throughout the day, each one of the drift cars burns through a brand new set of tires every two hours. And while the drivers get breaks, as my driver Rick “The Wild Thing” Vaughn can attest, they’re looking at a week of stiff shoulders and necks from hours spent practicing speed and precision.

It is hard to capture the excitement of cars running 1/8th mile drags in less than 8 seconds, so I recommend you witness it yourself next year. Besides the “street cars” competing in big tire and small tire classes, Dodge brought out Leah Pritchett in her “Angry Bee” top fuel dragster, and Matt Hagan in his Dodge Challenger funny car for exhibition runs. Dodge also provides Challenger Redeyes and Chargers for a series of races involving celebrities, professional drag racers, and even the local sheriffs. Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham beat Oakland’s Mike Bouchard running head to head in Challenger Redeyes, and Pritchett beat all the pros and celebrities driving identical 495hp Chargers.

For the uninitiated, “big tire” and “small tire” are two common classes at local strips, with small tires generally being limited to 275mm or about 11 inches wide and 28 inches in diameter. Lil Jimmer Kline won the big tire class in his 1966 Pontiac GTO, appropriate given the location, and Alen Danial won small tire in a 1979 Chevy Malibu, both getting $5,000. On top of that, Dodge kicked in an additional $10,000 split between the two fastest Dodges, James Pranis in a 1968 Dodge Charger (big tire) and Peter Bokedon in a 1972 Dodge Dart (small tire). Like a traditional street race, no official elapsed times were given.

If you have a new school Mopar muscle car, you will be stoked to know that our Dodge Challenger/Charger/Magnum and Chrysler 300 manual is due out next month, covering all V6 and naturally aspirated Hemi V8 models up to 2018. And if you need a manual for the truck that takes your car to the track, chances are we have that as well, be it Chevy, Dodge/Ram, Toyota, or Ford.

Modern Dodge Challenger at Sunset