Pontiac – Drag racing headlined Roadkill Nights Saturday night as hot rods burned down Woodward to open Dream Cruise week. But the hottest ticket was for the Dodge Thrill Rides on nearby M1 Concourse’s Champion Motor Speedway.

Millenium Force rollercoaster at Cedar Point doesn’t see lines like this.

Thrill seekers waited up to four hours this afternoon to take a spin around M1 in a Dodge muscle car driven by experienced pro drivers. Families of four jumped into the 707-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (kids in the front seat, please!). Couples got squeezed into the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat coupe.

I took a spin in a Dodge Viper GT piloted by stock car racer Andy Thurman – and I’m still dizzy. I’ve driven M1’s track in everything from a McLaren 570GT to a Lexus LC 500 – and M1 Chief Instructor has taken me around M1 at some pretty lurid angles in a Charger Hellcat - but I’ve never done a lap with as much sustained aggression as with Thurman.

“I piloted the Thrill Rides last year in M1’s skid pad,” Thurman told me. “But using the M1 track is way better. These cars are a heckuva lot of fun with tons of horsepower and lots of torque.”

In the Viper’s case, that’s 645 ponies and 600 torques. Which Thurman put down all at once out of the gates. We entered M1 Concourse’s first turn at a 30 degree angle to the apex - Thurman skillfully controlling throttle and clutch. The rest of the lap would be more of the same -with a brief burst to 100 mph on the back straight – as Thurman threw the beast from apex to apex, and between pylon after pylon.

“The Viper likes to be stuck to the track,” says Thurman. “So it’s against its nature to throw it into all those slides.”

The Hellcats, on the other hand, need little goosing to break traction and it was something to watch the drivers manage their 4,500-pound girth around M1’s narrow asphalt.

Such extreme driving takes its toll on tires, and, behind the scenes, Thrill Ride crew members were working furiously to keep up with the tire wear. One tire changer said the seven Thrill Ride cars would go through 80 sets of tires on Saturday.

The crew, rivers, and staff are a tight group – a big horsepower circus going from event to event across the US showing off Dodge’s halo cars (and other muscle cars as well). If there is a Roadkill Nights 3 on Woodward next year, they’ll be back. You might want to get in line now.

Henry Payne is The Detroit News auto critic. He can be reached at and on Twitter at HenryEPayne.

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