Earlier this month, the fifth annual Roadkill Nights by Dodge automotive festival was held in Pontiac, Michigan, with the organizers expanding the event to two days for the first time. As a result, this year’s Roadkill Nights event was the biggest in every way, while the clear skies allowed the racing program to run smoothly for the first time since 2016. Having been to every Roadkill Nights by Dodge since the program started back in 2015, I can safely say that 2019 was the best to date, so for those who couldn’t make it to the Motor City for the most unique automotive festival in the country, here is a rundown of what you missed.
Dodge has sponsored the Roadkill Nights automotive festival in Detroit for each of the past five years. This event is officially put on by the crew from the Roadkill show and hosted by David Freiburger and Mike Finnegan, starting in the parking lot of the old Pontiac Silverdome in 2015 before moving to the M1 Concourse in 2016. At the first event, the drag racing portion of the program was held in the Silverdome parking lot, but with the move to M1 came the introduction of the legal street racing program, held right on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue.
This legal street racing program makes Roadkill Nights by Dodge unique from any other automotive event in the United States, but that is just one part of the festival. There is also a huge Show-N-Shine program with hundreds of cars lining part of the road course of the M1 Concourse facility, a pair of Dodge Thrill Ride areas where attendees can go for a high performance ride in a Hellcat Challenger or Charger with a professional driver, a dynamometer, an array of performance vendors and a bigger array of food vendors.
Of course, with Dodge being a title sponsor, there is a wide variety of Dodge displays with free swag, plenty of brand new Dodge vehicles to check out and like many other events, there is the Demon virtual drag race simulator, where you can sit in an actual 2018 Dodge Challenger Demon in front of a large screen and make virtual wheels-up quarter mile runs against a friend. However, while there is an obvious Dodge-heavy presence throughout the event, this is not a Dodge-only program, with plenty of non-Dodge products in the Show-N-Shine and racing fields.
Over the past few years, Roadkill Nights has been plagued by crummy weather and some growing pains, with the racing program being completely ruined by rain in each of the past two years. For 2019, the majority of the event started on Friday and continued on Saturday, and with clear skies on both days, the program went off without a hitch in front of massive crowds. Between Friday and Saturday, more than 47,000 spectators poured through the gates and more than 6,800 of them participated in the Dodge Thrill Rides.
On Saturday, there were more than 120 street legal machines in the street racing program on Woodward Avenue, along with appearances by some unique Roadkill project cars, a group of Challenger 1320s that were used for the celebrity showdown and NHRA stars Leah Pritchett and Matt Hagan each did monster burnouts on the temporary drag strip with their 10,000-horsepower race cars.
In addition to the fantastic racing program, the M1 Concourse was filled with hundreds of Show-N-Shine vehicles, so when spectators stepped away from the grandstands lining Woodward for a bite to eat or a trip to the Thrill Ride areas, they were greeted with an impressive collection of cars, trucks and SUVs that ranged from antiques to brand new vehicles.
There were three main aspects to the legal street racing program, starting with the Small Tire and Big Tire classes for the “normal” drag racing program, as well as the Celebrity Shootout and the Quickest Dodge awards.
Unfortunately, the Small Tire and Big Tire classes were both dominated by non-Dodge products, with a 1966 Pontiac GTO wining Big Tire while a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu won Small Tire, each of which took home $10,000 for the win. However, Jim Pranis and his 1968 Dodge Charger won $5,000 for being the Quickest Dodge in Big Tire while Peter Bokedon and his 1972 Dodge Dart won the $5,000 prize for being the Quickest Dodge in Small Tire.
In the Celebrity Shootout, the team of Leah Pritchett and David Freiburger took home the win, claiming a $10,000 check for the United Way in the process.
If you have not been to a Roadkill Nights by Dodge event and you live within a reasonable distance of Pontiac, Michigan, this is definitely something that you should put on your Bucket List. You can see the Dodge displays or get in on the Dodge Thrill Rides at events all over the country and you can see an awesome Show-N-Shine spread just about anywhere, but when you put it all together and factor in the legal street racing program, there is nothing like Roadkill Nights by Dodge in the world. It is a terrific event and it just keeps on getting bigger and better each year, with a remarkably diverse collection of vehicles on the Woodward drag strip and in the M1 Concourse display area.