Tim Kuniskis didn’t want Roadkill Nights, the pre-Dream Cruise event that turns a section of Woodward Avenue in Pontiac into a legal street drag strip for a day, to get stale in its sixth year.
So as the event, a product of a partnership between MotorTrend and Dodge, returns Aug. 14 after its year off because of the pandemic, Kuniskis, the Dodge brand CEO for Stellantis, said it’s going to add something new, a Hellcat build-and-race grudge match.
Eric Malone, star of MotorTrend’s “Fastest Cars of the Dirty South,” was picked to test his car modification and racing abilities against four automotive social media influencers. Their names haven’t yet been released.
Kuniskis compared the fan debate over who’s “more legit” between TV and online car modification shows to professional wrestling, and he clearly hopes that helps build excitement for this year’s Roadkill Nights, which he called Dodge’s Super Bowl. It attracts tens of thousands in person each year and a big crowd online, too.
“Just like real racing, there aren’t a lot of rules,” Kuniskis said, during a virtual news conference Friday. “We’re gonna give them the car, 10 grand and six weeks to build it, as fast as they can make it. They’ve gotta keep the block, and they’ve gotta keep the blower, and it’s gotta look like a Challenger or a Charger when they’re done, but that’s it. You can cheat all you want. You can run this thing on nitromethane, put the biggest slicks you can fit in there. I don’t care.”
Malone will get a Challenger Hellcat, and the online teams will be split — two will receive Chargers and two will get Challengers. The race winner gets bragging rights.
Malone said it would be a big challenge for him, as he has never modified a Hellcat, the Dodge engine that’s synonymous with muscle car horsepower.
“I actually started out street racing, so this takes me all the way back to my roots,” Malone said. “I’m not gonna tell everything, but my plan is this car is gonna make over 1,000 horsepower. … I have some big plans for this car.”
The real test, however, will come at the Woodward drag strip by the M1 Concourse.
Mike Finnegan, host of MotorTrend’s “Roadkill” show, said the winner won’t be determined by who has the most horsepower.
“The road is the equalizer. Woodward Avenue is the sketchiest place to go drag racing I’ve ever seen,” he said, noting that it’ll take an ability not to get rattled by passing trains and other factors unique to that location. He called it “magical.”
The Hellcat grudge match won’t be the only attraction. As always, amateur drag racers will be signing up to test their mettle on the strip.
Kuniskis said the prize money — $10,000 for race classes such as fastest big tire and fastest small tire — attracts “some serious, serious hardware.”
The number of race contestants has to be limited to about 120 to get everyone through in one day.
Drag racing is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., with gates open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14. MotorTrend Presents Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge will be limited to one day this year. In 2019, organizers had expanded it to a two-day event on Friday and Saturday, the week before the Dream Cruise.
Additional information, including for drag racing registration, is to be posted at hotrod.com/events/roadkillnights.