Raising Hellcat: Tom Drago

To make the All-Dodge Final Four at Roadkill Nights, you don’t need to race a fully prepared vintage Mopar. If you’re Tom Drago, you can make it all the way into the featured quartet with just your Sunday driver. Sure, Tom’s Sunday driver is a 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat and his Sunday drives come a quarter-mile at a time, but he swears his Hellcat is totally stock, aside from some sticky tires.

Last year, Tom made the Top 8 in the first Roadkill Nights shootout in Pontiac just a couple months after buying his Hellcat Charger. This time around, with the new format, drivers had just a few moments to turn the car around between passes—and that presented a unique challenge, even for Drago, who is used to having more time between his Sunday afternoon runs. Combined with the narrow, unprepared, and relatively dark stretch of Woodward Avenue that served as the racing surface, Drago found himself well outside his comfort zone.

004-Tom Drago Hellcat Charger Roadkill Nights 2016

“I’m not a street racer; I’m used to a drag strip with a lot more room,” Drago said. “I take the car to the track every Sunday and when you add something that’s totally out of your zone, it messes you up. It makes you rush, makes you think you missed something.”

While he made a mistake or two in the finals with tire pressures in the time-crunch, Drago found help from a couple extra sets of hands that he typically doesn’t enlist. A couple of regulars from his home track who he knows only by their first names—Simon and Chuck—pitched in to help Tom turn the Hellcat around between runs. While he struggled with the conditions and the track a bit in the finals, Tom hooked up the Hellcat on the last pass and he credited Simon and Chuck with a lot of the resulting Third Place finish.

“I was very happy with that last run,” “Without those two guys, I couldn’t have done what I did. Thank god I had those guys with me.”

006-Tom Drago Hellcat Charger Roadkill Nights 2016

Drago and his helpers were too busy scrambling to run the Hellcat to pause for long to appreciate the massive fan turnout at Roadkill Nights on Woodward. “I can’t tell you from a fan’s standpoint [about the atmosphere] because I was concentrating on my car,” he said, “but it’s always exciting to be running something like that in front of the huge crowd.”

Roadkill Fall 2016 Cover