Thousands attend Roadkill Nights in Pontiac

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Pontiac — For the first time in nearly a decade, roars and cheers could be heard coming from the Pontiac Silverdome from miles away on Wednesday.

But instead of rowdy Detroit Lions fans, the noise was vehicles burning out during drag racing, engines roaring and cheers of race fans as part of a new pre-Woodward Dream Cruise event called Roadkill Nights — hosted by TEN Network and powered by Dodge.

“To pull off something like this in a center that’s been closed for a while … it’s a large undertaking,” said Gas Monkey Garage owner Richard Rawlings, star of the Discovery Channel’s “Fast N’ Loud.” “The Roadkill guys killed it. They pulled it off in perfect fashion.”

Seven-thousand people preregistered for the event. Organizers expected as many as 10,000 people. It included hundreds of classic and custom cars parked in the vacated stadium’s massive parking lot; thrill rides with professional drivers in Dodge Viper SRT and Dodge Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcat models; and hours of drag races.

“The event, I’m really happy about,” said Eliot Erlaneson, 21, of Royal Oak, a dragster in a custom 1962 Mercury Meteor. “The track is interesting because it’s on a slope … but I hooked up pretty well, and now it’s time to go back and actually be aggressive.”

Consumers started competitively racing on the custom-built 1/8-mile track on a first-come, first-race basis. A competition also took place that awarded the fastest Dodge vehicle owner a 707-horsepower Hellcat engine with transmission and wiring harness.

Sterling Heights resident Brandon Phillips won the engine with his 1969 Dodge Challenger Super Bee 446 Pack. He beat a 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins turbo diesel. It was the first time an engine for the highly-popular Hellcat vehicles has been given away to the public.

“This is awesome,” said Bruce Ealy, 35, of Eastpointe, who was with his 7-year-old son Brysen. “To be able to see the races so close to home is pretty cool.

“The community needs something like this. They should do this more often.”

Two car shows — “Roadkill” on the Motor Trend YouTube Channel and “Fast N’ Loud” — were filming Wednesday. The event culminated with enthusiasts from each show racing a 1968 Dodge Charger and 1967 Dodge Dart (nicknamed “Shart Cat”) that have been retrofitted with Hellcat engines.

“I’m really impressed with the logistics and how well everything is organized,” said Craig Belevender, 52, of Clarkston. “It turned out much better than I though it was going to. Everything fits, I’m meeting a lot of great people .. it’s really a nice setup.

“I hope they do it again next year.”

Dodge CEO and President Tim Kuniskis said officials haven’t talked about partnering for the event in the future, but it is a possibility.

“This really is a gigantic version of what we did at Woodward (Dream Cruise last year),” he said. “Could you bottle up this formula and re-create it? Yeah, you absolutely could.”

The event is the opening night celebration for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the 2015 Woodward Dream Cruise.

Fiat Chrysler also is involved in the annual Viper Club Car Show Thursday and Dodge Night Car Show Friday. Both will be from 6-9 p.m. at 13 Mile and Woodward.

On Saturday, Fiat Chrysler is doubling its footprint of consumer activities at Northwood Shopping Center, at 13 Mile and Woodward, including thrill rides in Hellcat and Viper models. A tug of war between the two Hellcat cars and a Viper will take place.

The thrill rides, like on Tuesday, feature fast accelerations and drifting. They’re an extreme change from a year ago, when people lined up at the Dodge display to just sit in a Viper.

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