What was a one point a full calendar of summer automotive events in Michigan evaporated to nothing. The reimagined Detroit Auto Show in June, canceled. The Belle Isle Grand Prix, canceled. The Woodward Dream Cruise in August, (officially) canceled. And of course, 2020 Roadkill Nights, sponsored by Dodge, didn’t happen either. But 2021 is a new year, and the industry waits with bated breath that some semblance of normalcy will be back by the time we’re on the other side of winter. For Dodge, that means getting ready for Roadkill Nights 2021.
“Obviously we didn’t do it this year,” said Tim Kuniskis, head of FCA passenger cars. “We say every single year that it’s going to be a year-to-year, because quite honestly that’s as much of a community event as it is our event.”
Roadkill Nights is unlike any other event in the world. Traditionally taking place a weekend or two just before the Woodward Dream Cruise in August, a section of Woodward Avenue is closed off for 1/8th-mile drag racing, while spectators watch from bleachers set up on the edge of the M1 Concourse, an 87-acre compound featuring customizable garages, a private race track, and upcoming events center. For one day, Dodge takes over the facility, and muscle car enthusiasts can participate in thrill rides in Hellcat Chargers and Challengers with professional drivers, gawk at the rows of Mopar muscle, and take in all the sights and sounds of drag racing on Woodward Avenue. This unique feature is also a crux. It takes place on a public road. So even if there’s a vaccine for COVID-19, Dodge still has to get the approval of the relevant bureaucracies.
“We can’t just draw a line in the sand and say ‘yes we are gonna do it,’ because we gotta get the Department of Transportation, we gotta get the City of Pontiac – everybody each year has to sign off on allowing us to do it,” explained Kuniskis, when explaining the complexities of planning Roadkill Nights 2021.
Hopefully officials responsible for signing off on Roadkill Nights continue to welcome this massive event that celebrates American car culture. Last year, more than 47,000 enthusiasts attended the event, which was the brainchild of MotorTrend Group. More than 120 street-legal cars hit the specially prepped 1/8-mile drag strip on Woodward Avenue between Rapid Street and South Boulevard to compete in high-powered drag racing for a cash purse totaling $30,000. The quickest Dodge cars in both the small and large tire categories also took home $5,000 each.
“We would love to do it, we wanna do it, we’re budgeting to do it (for 2021),” said Kuniskis. “Whether COVID is gonna comply with us and our wishes and whether the City (of Pontiac) and (Michigan) Department of Transportation will, TBD. Hope so.”