Tim Kuniskis, FCA North America executive, talks about Saturday's Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac. Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News
Pontiac — You’ve got plenty of options to kick off your Dream Cruise week. Why not go loud, proud and fast?
Andy Thurman is among a group of drivers who can provide the loud and fast by offering thrill rides in high-powered Dodge Chargers and Challenger Hellcats on Saturday at the third annual Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge. The proud depends on how well you can handle the 770-horsepower romp around a closed course with pedal-to-the-floor acceleration you can hear for miles, high-speed drifting and head-snapping turns.
The rides are just one of the offerings for those to come to the M1 Concourse for this year’s event. For the second year in a row, muscle cars and drag racers will take over the Pontiac’s M1 Concourse motorsports complex and an adjoining portion of Woodward Avenue.
It’s an ode-to-speed event designed for families that drew more than 30,000 last year. And those attractions have a decidedly Dodge spin.
Thurman, a 47-year-old professional driver from Charlotte, N.C. is among those whose “job” it is Saturday to give visitors a taste of what the Hellcat can do. Just asking him about it during a media event Friday brought a smile to his face.
“It’s got tons of power,” he said. “They sound good, they drive and handle good... It’s amazing.”
Roadkill Nights is a program put on by TEN: The Enthusiast Network and sponsored by Dodge. Tim Kuniskis, the head of passenger car brands for Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and Fiat, described Saturday as Dodge’s “Super Bowl.”
“This weekend is the unofficial kickoff where we are going to shut down Woodward Avenue, and we are going to have some of the fastest street cars in the country competing for $19,000 in prize money,” he said. “And it’s going to run all day ...
“It is going to be the thing you do not want to miss.”
The Hellcat won’t even be the baddest boy on the block here. Dotted around the Concourse property are several 2018 Challenger SRT Demons – you know, the ones with 840-horsepower that often are pictured doing wheelies off the starting line?
You can do better than just get a look at it. Those with valid driver’s licenses can try the Demon Drag Challenge. It’s a simulator that literally puts you behind the wheel of a Demon and in front of a simulator screen showing a lifelike drag strip.
Those who play their cards right will cause the car to do a wheelie – the vehicle lifts and shudders hydraulically – as it roars off the virtual starting line. People waiting in line will be able to read instructions that include “Tip: Shift at 6,500 rpm.”
It’s part of Saturday’s program, which includes:
■Drag racing along a closed portion of Woodward Avenue.
■Vintage, muscle and classic cars on display at Show ’n’ Shine.
■Celebrity drag racing.
■NHRA drivers participating in Top Fuel car runs.
Roadkill Nights is, perhaps, one of the clearest displays of Dodge’s move to identify itself as a top performance brand. Kuniskis said that while sedan sales are in decline, Challenger and Charger sales are on the rise. Both cars were central players in what many considered the Golden Age of Muscle Cars in the 1960s.
“I actually said three years ago, if you missed the first muscle-car era, don’t miss this one,” Kuniskis said. “I was actually wrong... This is the Golden Era. You can walk into a showroom today and, right off the showroom floor, buy a car with 400, 500, 600, 700,800 horsepower. It’s unheard of.”
When: 10 a.m to 11 p.m. Saturday
Where: M1 Concourse, 164 South Blvd. W., Pontiac.
Admission: $10 per person ($5 for Pontiac residents). Free for age 12 and younger
Details: The first-place purse for drag racing is $10,000; the winner earns an additional $10,000 if their vehicle is a Dodge. A livestream of the drag racing will be available at dodge.com.