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Pontiac – And then there were four.

After a full day of drag racing down Woodward – yes, Woodward Avenue – next to M1 Concourse here, four cars have qualified for the finals and a shot at $10,000. Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge opens Dream Cruise week and, in keeping with the democratic spirit of the Cruise, the race cars are all street legal and piloted by amateur enthusiasts.

The fastest driver today – in the only car under 6 seconds on the 1/8 mile strip of public road – is Gary Box of Cleveland, Ohio in his outrageous, black, 1960s-vintage Corvette Stingray. Not so fortunate is Tom Joycey of Waterford Hills, Michigan, whose very quick 1977 Camaro Z28 blew a skinny, front “roller” tire and won’t be sticking around for the Final Four.

Box exploded down the southbound lanes of Woodward in a stupefying 5.7 seconds, drawing gasps from the drag racer faithful who were stunned that any car could break 6 seconds on a public road.

“This is cool as hell, man,” said Box at the starting line, Woodward’s surface jet black from a day of serious horsepower and serious burnouts. “This surface really sucks – there are a lot of stones in this asphalt. But this is real street racing.”

Box should know – he got his stripes street racing in Cleveland. He built his monster ‘Vette – he estimates the 522-cubic inch Chevy puts out 1,300 horsepower – in 1999 and has put 40,000 miles on the odometer driving it around Cleveland. The side pipes put out a deafening 99 decibels, but – like everything else here – the car is street legal.

Box’s son Corey races with him and is building his own car. He’s happy to give dad the glory this weekend. “He’s been racing that car for 18 years and he deserves it,” smiles the son. He also credits NHRA Top Fuel champion John Force. “He signed the glovebox – I think that’s our secret.”

Camaro driver Joycey has been a Top Ten drag racer in the National Muscle Car Association for years. Like Box, this is his first year at Roadkill and that’s by design. In its inaugural year, organizers took entrants on a first come, first serve basis. This year, to encourage better racing – and to guarantee competitors know what they were doing at 150 mph between two concrete walls – drivers had to apply for entry.

“I filled out an application and they accepted me,” says Joycey whose Camaro puts out 1,500 ponies and needs rear wheelie bars to keep the thing on the ground when he launches off the line. He will come back next year if approved.

“This is just crazy – it’s hard to believe they can pull this off,” he said before heading home, nursing his shredded front tire. “There are more people in these grandstands than there are at a track drag race.”

Joycey pointed to his 10.5-inch, DOT-approved, street legal tires (with all of three grooves) on the back of his Camaro. “I run slicks at Milan (drag strip),” he smiles.

Box didn’t realize there is another week of cruising after Roadkill nights. “I would have stayed for the week and done some cruising in my car,” he says. But tonight he’s focused on the prize.

“I think I can do a 5.2 second run,” says the tall, gray-haired Ohioan. “I want that $10 grand.”

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