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Roadkill Nights brings grudge matches, burning rubber, legal street racing to Woodward

·3 min read

Christina Roki will try something new on Saturday.

She’ll get behind the wheel of a 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T that just happens to have a new Hellcat Redeye engine under the hood and try to win a grudge match,

Roki has never drag raced before, but she’s planning to do it on Saturday in front of thousands of people as part of MotorTrend Presents Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac. The annual legal street drag racing event, which attracted 38,000 attendees last year and features plenty of burning rubber each year a week before the Woodward Dream Cruise, gives amateur drag racers a chance to compete on a closed section of Woodward, hopefully with their pride intact. The total purse for this year's racers, in all categories, is $30,000.

Roki said she's ready.

Members of the media, drivers and race car fans gather for the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.
Members of the media, drivers and race car fans gather for the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.

“I’m pretty confident. I want a clean pass. I want to gain a good amount of traction and hopefully beat whoever I'm competing with,” Roki said.

Roki’s no stranger to hot rods. She and her boyfriend, Grant Sloan, both 21 and living in Utica, have big social media followings on YouTube and TikTok, where they post lots of car videos. That’s how they got this opportunity. Dodge picked a group of social media influencers, gave them a $10,000 budget and a Hellcat Redeye engine and told them to build a drag racing car.

Roki and Sloan, who are both engineering students (she’s at the University of Michigan and he’s at Purdue), found their ride in a barn a couple of hours outside Detroit, and like everyone else ended up with only about a month or so to build their racers, though they said they got some help along the way.

Christina Roki, 21, left, stands next to her partner Grant Sloan, 21, and their Dodge vehicle during the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.
Christina Roki, 21, left, stands next to her partner Grant Sloan, 21, and their Dodge vehicle during the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.

More: Dodge returning to Woodward Dream Cruise, capping week of unveilings, Roadkill Nights

More: Dodge 'Chief Donut Maker' competition winner beats out 170,000 applicants

More: Metro Detroit car cruises: 7 shows to check out this summer

Sloan said the Challenger, which is expected to deliver close to 1,000 horsepower, was not in “terrible condition,” but still needed work.

“We saw potential. We saw an opportunity with it,” he said.

When Roki gets her shot Saturday, it's possible she could face Herman Young, 57, of Mansfield, Texas, near Dallas.

Members of the media and race car fans take photos and videos of the cars participating in the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.
Members of the media and race car fans take photos and videos of the cars participating in the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.

Young’s got his own social media following on his “Demonology” channel on YouTube and, like Roki, was selected by Dodge. He’d had the makings of his car, just a car body for a year and half, but it was “just a shell.” A month ago, he started building his machine.

”I had to build an entire car, brakes, steering. We ran out of time, so we couldn’t get the dash, but we built what we could build,” said Young, who is a regular at three drag strips, and has a method to his racing.

“My deal is I snatch souls,” he said, describing how he won’t bet ahead of a race, he just "takes the souls” of those he beats.

Although the racing is the main event at Roadkill, plenty of people come for the sheet metal eye candy and possibly to catch sight of an auto celebrity. Dodge thrill and drift rides in Challenger and Charger SRT Hellcats are back, and this year will also feature an off-road course with a Ram 1500 TRX thrill ride.

Herman Young, 57, shows off his car's engine during the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.
Herman Young, 57, shows off his car's engine during the Roadkill Nights 2022 preview event at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac on Aug. 12, 2022.

Roadkill Nights runs 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Drag racing qualifying starts at 11 a.m. The Dodge Direct Connection Grudge Match begins at 4:45 p.m. and opening ceremonies start at 6:16 p.m.

Contact Eric D. Lawrence: elawrence@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence. Become a subscriber. 

For ticket and event information

Go to motortrend.com/roadkill-nights-2022

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Roadkill Nights returns to Woodward Avenue in Pontiac on Saturday