Smoke rose above the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas and hung there, rubber molecules trying to turn themselves back into tires. The cause was Roadkill Nights, a follow-up to the inaugural drag race and destruction jamboree we first enjoyed in Pontiac, Michigan in 2015. Engines smoked in the car show—because Roadkill, and Hellcats and Vipers drifted around the parking lot giving rides on rapidly melting Pirelli P Zeros. The real smokeshow, though, was on the pit lane of the Speedway. Right up against the banked oval we’d turned the pit straight into a drag strip, and there were some heavy hitters braving the lightly-prepped concrete.
“It was swept and dragged and they did a good job,” one racer told us, “but yeah, it was pretty much a no-prep deal.”
On that slippery 620-foot-long straight we saw racers run hot laps all day for qualifying, then we picked the quickest cars and they raced each other for money and glory. There was some serious money for the winner too, thanks to Dodge’s sponsorship of the event. Dodge ponied up $10,000 for the quickest Dodge in the all-Dodge race and $1000 for the quickest in the all-run group, which we probably should have just handed to Larry Larson the second he showed up with his six-second, street driven, silver 1966 Chevy II. C’mon, how often does that guy go to a race and not win? Larson’s dominating Nova aside, the other seven cars were proper-fast too, and we saw some amazing racing.
LED BY LARSON
1966 Chevy II
Larry Larson could be considered the king of the street cars, but he said he’d never raced a no-prep surface with his twin turbo, big-block Chevy. “I saw all these new Vettes and Hellcats out there skating around and I thought, ‘Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,’ but then I made a pass and it went nice and straight, spinning the tires the whole way, and it was a fun deal.” Larson left black marks all the way down the track, and still walked away with the cash.
1973 Datsun 210
Rusty Threadgill showed up in a little, black compact with a flat hood and proceeded to spank all the big muscle machines. Threadgill’s short-wheelbase 1973 Datsun on its monster meats made it down track quick enough to claim Second place.
“Is it Pontiac-powered?” everyone wants to know when they see Robin Roberts’ blue and white 1976 Firebird with its Trans-Am styling. “It’s a 540ci real Pontiac engine with Roland Racing CV-1 (Canted Valve) heads,” he told us. The ‘bird runs on pump gas with two stages of nitrous, and Roberts and his friends built it all in his home garage. Here’s a fun bit of trivia. Roberts is currently co-owner of the same company where Larson first started working as a mechanic. Small world!
1984 Mercury Marauder
Like Larson, Jason Doisher is a HOT ROD Drag Week veteran. His cardboard-colored 1984 Mercury Marauder wagon might not turn heads from the driver’s side, but the exhaust pipe coming through the passenger fender sorta ruins the “sleeper” effect. Doisher’s Merc is a stock 5.3LS engine with a single 80mm Borg Warner turbo. He says placing Fourth after driving all 1500 miles of Power Tour felt pretty good. “Nobody was as happy as my passengers though,” he said. Doisher had roadtripped with his 14-year-old daughter and his friend’s 9-year-old son. “My daughter Cathleen wasn’t sure about this at first, but ended up having a blast, and Luke, well, he about lost his mind getting to meet his heroes from Roadkill and Larry Larson. You couldn’t plan a trip like this in a million years.”
1967 Dodge Dart (with a ’68 grille)
It could not get more Roadkill than this guy. Troy Aves cracked five of the eight cylinders in the stroked, turbo-charged 6.1L Hemi in his 1967 Dart one week before Roadkill Nights. He and fellow racer Gary Putnam found a new block, got it machined and rebuilt and fired it up for the first time the day before the Roadkill race. Then he won $10,000. Yow. “I don’t know how sideways I was at the finishline, but I know I was sideways,” Aves told us about running the track. “It was so close, I could see the Challenger right next to me all the way down.”
That Challenger stuck to the side of Aves’ Dart was Doyle Hanvy’s 540ci-powered 1970. Hanvy won Second place with a smaller wedge motor over the Third Place Randy Andra’s larger Hemi-powered 1970 Chally with the help of some squeeze. In the Roadkill live video on Facebook you can hear Finnegan tell Freiburger, “I don’t know which of the purple Challengers with T/A hoods is running nitrous, but I know one is, and I bet that one’s gonna win.”
1970 Challenger (it’s a Hemi!)
“I call it an endurance shootout,” Randy Andra told us about the race. “It was really unique, I thought it was great.” Andra has owned his 1970 Challenger for 33 years. He ‘caged it, added subframe connectors and stuffed it full of 572 ci Hemi. Andra’s daily driver is a 2008 Dodge Viper, and his other project cars include a 1965 Coronet that he had just got running before wheelieing it on its first pass and crushing the oil pan. So yeah, he’s Roadkill.
2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat
These days it isn’t a drag race without someone in a Hellcat, and Jim Sams filled the position in his 2015 Challenger. Sams had Mickey Thompson drag radials on Bogart racing wheels but he says traction was still an issue. “I had a heck of a time hooking it up, but I still enjoyed it.” He went on to tell us that there are more than 100 drag passes on the year-old ‘Cat, along with road course runs, a hill climb, and 177 mph standing mile run. “That’s what I bought it for,” he said. “It doesn’t sit in the garage.”
Well done, all!