April 8, 2020

Fifth-annual Roadkill Nights powered by Dodge delivers street-race thrills

Elana Scherr

At this point in our collective lives, the amount of times a Roadkill-themed event has gone uninterrupted by rain or disaster has been—not sure ever, actually. Until now! The 2019 Roadkill Nights powered by Dodge was sunny, nobody ran over the starting tree, and Richard Rawlings didn’t climb the wall with a Challenger like he was competing in some sort of Hellcat-powered parkour.

This was the fifth year of Roadkill Nights, four since the city of Pontiac, Michigan, started closing off the famous Woodward Avenue for police-sanctioned street racing, and it was big. Nearly 50,000 people came to watch cars do burnouts, spin donuts, and of course, race each other on the street. There were more than 120 cars competing on the eighth-mile, and the public street was so sticky many competitors told us they got better times just past the railroad tracks than they have on their hometown dragstrips.

For those who weren’t ready to get behind the wheel, there were thrill rides and drift rides in Dodge Challengers and Chargers, as well as motorcycle stunt performances, motocross trick riders, and exhibition cars shooting fire and running the whole street on just the back tires. Oh, did we mention the Top Fuel burnouts by Dodge drivers Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett? A train went by while they were closing the body on the Mopar Funny Car. That is just not a thing you see anywhere but at a Roadkill event.

Of course, the Roadkill boys were on site, signing autographs with other stars of MotorTrend shows, and racing each other in both Dodge Challenger 1320s and the fine fleet of Roadkill show cars. Their junk is starting to run kinda good. Are they losing their touch?

Out in the field, cars ranged from Drag Week veterans like Tom Bailey and Bryant Goldstone to Dodge designers like Jeff Gale and Dan Zimmermann. Zimmermann’s 1973 Challenger is in that perfect state of project car: still more to do, but you can see the endgame and it looks amazing. The doors also shut with one finger, something any of you with E-bodies, or for that matter, second-gen F-bodies, will understand as miraculous. “I think Roadkill’s ‘Vanishing Paint’ is in better condition than this car was when I got it,” Zimmermann said. But he persevered, replacing the roof skin, both quarters, and the trunk pan. “I straightened the passenger fender and replaced the flat hood with the Rallye hood which I painted flat black and used to write my to-do list on.” Zimmermann plans to eventually paint the car Flame Red, but for now he’s driving it as is, enjoying the 360 small-block and searching out inspiration for his automotive drawings on the track and in the show field.