On Monday, March 20, 2023, the folks from the Dodge brand did something that they had never before done – they hosted a Roadkill Nights event in Las Vegas, Nevada. For 7 of the past 8 years (they skipped 2020 due to Covid), Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge has been held in Metro Detroit.
For 6 of those 7 years, the highlight of the event has been the legal street racing program on Woodward Avenue. The two key differences with Roadkill Nights Vegas were that the drag racing program took place on an actual track rather than the street and that the main attraction was the debut of the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170.
Roadkill Nights Vegas began at noon local time on Monday, March 20, at which point the drag racing program began on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Since Roadkill Nights Vegas was announced with relatively short notice and it took place in the middle of a work day, the racing crowd wasn’t quite as big as it is in Detroit.
In Detroit, they aim to have around a hundred cars in the competitive racing field, but in Vegas, they had just 65 competitors between the Small Tire and Big Tire classes. However, what the racing field lacked in size, it made up for in terms of on-track efforts.
At the Roadkill Nights event in Detroit, the racers are literally racing on the public driving surface of Woodward Avenue. It is not flat, it is not smooth and, even with the best efforts of the prep crew, it is not very sticky. Making use of full power on the narrow, rough street track is tough.
On the other hand, the drag racing program at the Roadkill Nights Vegas event took place in the two left lanes of the four-lane drag strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The smooth surface led to some blistering fast times, with all eight vehicles in the quick four shootout of each class running well into the lower-5-second range in the 8th mile.
The field in Vegas was largely Dodge or Mopar, with all of the quick four competitors being Mopar products. Chris Yanez won the Small Tire class and Christopher Thompson won the Big Tire class.
While the drag racing program was taking place on the track, the area behind the main grandstands had a long list of horsepower-fueled fun for the whole family. This included the Dodge Thrill Rides and Demon Driving Simulator, and during the course of the day, more than 1,300 free thrill rides and driving simulator sessions were enjoyed by attendees. Participants even got a free shirt when they signed up for either of the interactive horsepower displays.
Next to the Dodge Thrill Ride area was the huge cruise-in show area, lined with more than 400 gorgeous cars, trucks and SUVs, again mostly Dodge and Mopar, but a few nice looking non-Mopars as well.
There were also spray-on tattoo booths, areas to buy Roadkill and Dodge apparel, all sorts of food for purchase, a Radford Racing School display, a Mickey Thompson Tires display and more. Among the 10,000+ attendees of Roadkill Nights Vegas were Jay Leno, Bill Goldberg and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Roadkill Nights Vegas also featured a private VIP area where those folks with the proper wristband could get free drinks and free food, along with an area to watch the racing from trackside. This area also had free Dodge-branded hand-rolled cigars and other freebies for VIP attendees. This included a Demon 170 shot glass, event stickers and Dodge//Mickey Thompson Tire coasters.
After everyone enjoyed the racing, thrill rides, simulator and other attractions, everything came to an end at 5pm as the team prepared for the main event – the debut of the seventh and final Last Call special edition muscle car.
Starting around 6pm, Tim Kuniskis talked about the history of the Dodge brand and looked at some of the key performance vehicles in the past hundred years. He then began talking about the big news for the evening – the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170. After running the community through the key features and abilities of the vehicle, Kuniskis stepped back and looked to the skies.
Off in the distance, a Kaman K-MAX helicopter rose from one of the other tracks around Las Vegas Motor Speedway. As it got high enough, the crowd could see that there was a car hanging far below the helicopter on a small platform. As the helicopter got closer, the crowd could see that the car on the platform was a silver-and-black Dodge Challenger – the 2023 SRT Demon 170.
Even with the strong winds, the pilot skillfully set the car down in the lane of the drag strip nearest the crowd, at which point SRT engineer and performance test driver Jim Wilder climbed aboard. Wilder slowly drove the 1,025-horsepower Challenger the length of the track, turned around under the timing tower building and then headed out to the burnout box.
After a quick burnout, Wilder pulled the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 into the staging beams and when the green light dropped, he came roaring away from the line with the front wheels up in the air. As a series of fiery explosions went off in the background, Wilder set the wheels down on the shift and then brought them back up for a second wheelie on one one.
Of course, with a huge headwind and elevation of the track of over 2,000 feet, the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 didn’t run any record times, but the official NHRA-certified quarter mile time of 8.91 at 151.17 miles per hour appeared across the timing board. Wilder then circled back around and pulled to the burnout box, but this time, he just did a massive, smoky burnout down the track.
The evening ended with the team staging the 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 in the burnout box area of the track as Diplo performed on the stage next to the track for those spectators who came down out of the grandstands for a closer look.
It was an epic event to introduce an epic car – the last and greatest of the modern era of the American muscle car.