Pop Quiz! What’s the Michigan State Flower? If you answered the apple blossom, congratulations. You’re indoctrinated and believe everything you hear in school. The correct answer is the road construction barrel. Particularly the orange, blinking variety. And it’s the season where these lovely flowers are blooming all over the Mitten State. In particular, they can be found all over Oakland County right now. Freeways such as I-75, I-96, and even the legendary Woodward Avenue. And while sanctioned street racing is seldom the concern of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), it does endanger the wildly popular summertime event known as Roadkill Nights, which takes place on Woodward Avenue at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan on August 12. Except this year, it isn’t.
MDOT is currently installing what’s known to many as a new “Michigan left” turn around area just north of the Woodward and South Boulevard. The design incorporates a median, a merging lane, and a left turnout positioned with either a yield sign, stop sign, or traffic light. Some may call also it a “U-turn” lane. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the Memorial Day weekend, which is plenty of time before the scheduled date of August 12 for Roadkill Nights 2023, but the new layout rearranges the 1/8th mile straightaway that the event has used.
“M1 has been a tremendous partner. Changing our venue is the result of MDOT making road improvements for the businesses in the area,” said MotorTrend Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schwab to our friend Henry Payne over at The Detroit News. “Putting in a Michigan [left] turn there prevents the southbound lanes from being a straight shot.”
“There were apparently concerns with construction on the southbound lanes of Woodward to put in a U-turn lane and whether that might change the configuration of the drag strip,” M1 CEO Tim McGrane told The Detroit News. “Concerns included whether the construction could be done on schedule and if the northbound lanes would be a suitable, safe alternative.”
It’s more than just accessing a clean stretch of road. The M1 Concourse has been the facility for Roadkill Nights for several years now. Measuring 87 acres, it’s large enough to host 40,000 people, as seen last year, scattered around the grounds either spectating the races on Woodward, experiencing Dodge thrill rides in either a Charger or Challenger Hellcat, walking through the simultaneous car show, or going airborne in a Ram 1500 TRX. Nowhere else on or near Woodward Avenue is this all possible.
The highlight of Roadkill Nights 2023 is supposed to be a “Grudge Match” made up of teams with “Protégé” and “Mentor” drivers. The idea is for the Mentor to teach the Protégé to go fast in a custom-built drag racer, powered by a new 3.0L Hurricane twin-turbo inline 6 crate engine.
The alternative option could end up being the “Pontiac loop” between East Huron and Orchard Lake roads, just north of M1 Concourse. This location is where Dodge holds activations during the Woodward Dream Cruise, which usually falls on the Saturday after Roadkill Nights. Dodge took the opportunity to make news almost every day last year during what it called “Speed Week.” After making so much news in 2022, highlighted by the all-electric Charger SRT Daytona Banshee Concept, it’s unclear if Speed Week will return this year.
At the moment, M1 Concourse is looking to host a new event for the August 12th weekend, ahead of the Dream Cruise and the site’s own Woodward Dream Show on Aug. 18-19 during Dream Cruise weekend. Dream Show is a showcase for classic hot rods that will be highlight 2023 milestones such as the Corvette’s 70th anniversary.
Chevy and Ford, the floor is yours.