Legal drag racing on Woodward Avenue draws thousands

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Cars leave the starting line on street-legal drag races on Woodward Avenue | RoadKill Nights photos

Who would even dream that you could drag race – legally – on Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue?  With the police taking part in the smoky action, no less. 

That was the scene when part of the Detroit-area boulevard was shut down for MotorTrend Group’s Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge, a two-day high-horsepower celebration held as a prelude to the Woodward Dream Cruise. 

It was on Woodward Avenue back in the 1960s that engineers from the Detroit automakers honed the original muscle cars in stoplight-to-stoplight drag races.

Nearly 50,000 fans showed up for this, the fifth annual event, when Woodward between Rapid Street and South Boulevard is “transformed into a specially prepped 1/8-mile drag strip for legal street drag racing,” according to a Roadkill news release. 

More than 12o street-legal cars competed in two classes – Big Tire and Small Tire – for a cash purse of $30,000.

The Big Tire winner was Lil Jimmer Kline of Michigan, who smoked the competition in a 1966 Pontiac GTO. Small Tire winner was Alen Daniel, also of Michigan, who ran a 1979 Chevrolet Malibu. 

The team of Leah Pritchett and David Freiburger won the celebrity showdown challenge, with a $10,000 prize purse donated to United Way. In total, $21,210 was donated to United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Pritchett in her NHRA Top Fuel Dragster and Matt Hagan in his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody NHRA Funny Car wowed the crowd with exhibition runs.

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Sherrifs go head-to-head

Oh, and let’s not forget the police pursuit, with Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham beating Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard in the Sheriff Showdown, described as an “old-school grudge” match, with each sheriff driving 2019 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeyes with respective county decals. 

 “When we first introduced ‘Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge’ five years ago as a pop-up car show and drag race, we never imagined it would grow to nearly 50,000 performance enthusiasts over two days,” said Tim Kuniskis, global head of Alfa Romeo and head of passenger cars – Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA – North America. 

“The positive reaction from our fans and continued growth of this one-of-a-kind event fuels our passion to keep delivering products and marketing for performance enthusiasts.”

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

3 COMMENTS

  1. We need some one to come to Long Island and show the authorities how to do this , there is absolutely nothing going on on Long Island anymore . We need events like that , people still love this

  2. first time we saw the roadkill nights drags, my sister and son loved the flamethrowers , and when leah stepped on all that hp. everyone jumped. not quite green but great. nm

  3. I was one of the Woodward Boys back in the ’60’s. 7 days a week from the Pole (Totem Pole Drive-in) to Big Ted’s Drive-in at Maple we were out there. Cars came from all over the Mid-west to race there. Four lanes north…and south. We would block the traffic behind us and line up four across at every light. Fun till the cops started passing out tickets. Excessive noise, then Show-of- performance, then drag racing. Glad to see there’s still an interest in the sport.

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