Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge runs legal street drag racing on Woodward Avenue in Pontiac. Robin Buckson / The Detroit News
Pontiac – Gary Box of Cleveland, Ohio was crowned the King of Woodward Avenue Saturday night after a downpour washed out Roadkill Nights’ Final Five drag racing shootout.
After a full day of legal street racing down Woodward Avenue (closed north of South Boulevard for the event) next to the M1 Concourse, five drivers qualified for the finals: Box, John Paul Delisi of Eastpointe, Michigan; Brian Goidstone of Osceda Michigan; Jim Kline of Wyoming, Michigan; and Lenny Milton of Salisbury, North Carolina.
By virtue of posting the fastest qualifying time, Box was crowned the winner after the skies opened at 8 PM and rendered the 1/8 mile strip too wet to race. Box took home the $10,000 first prize.
Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge opened Dream Cruise week and, in keeping with the democratic spirit of the Cruise, the race cars were all street legal and piloted by amateur enthusiasts. The packed stands were also treated to an exhibition run by NHRA pro racer Leah Pritchett in her 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster.
Box, 63, was the only competitor to clock a run under 6 seconds in the 1/8 mile in his outrageous, black, 1960s-vintage Corvette Stingray — a towering blower sticking out of its front hood. He 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 before the rains came, Woodward turned jet black under his feet from a day of 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 around town. The side pipes put out a deafening 99 decibels, but, like everything else here, the car is street legal.
Not so fortunate was Tom Joycey of Waterford Hills, Michigan, whose very quick 1977 Camaro Z28 was considered one of the favorites for the Final Five before he blew a skinny, front “roller” tire on his second qualifying run.
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 from the Roadkill Nights internet show and Dodge took entrants on a first-come, first-served 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 front end planted 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 eog and frayed 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.
Gary 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,” smiled the son. He also credits NHRA Top Fuel champion John Force. “He signed the glove box — I think that’s our secret.”
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.
and on Twitter at HenryEPayne.firstname.lastname@example.orgHenry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at