Lonely Planet Writer

Drivers, start your engines: the first legal drag race is set for Detroit next month

There’s a new opportunity to show off your need for speed in the automotive capital of the world. On 23 September, the Motor City Showdown will go down as the first legal drag race in the city of Detroit. The ⅛-mile race will take place at City Airport, on Detroit’s East side.

Detroit is set to get its own legal drag race. Image by mevans/Getty Images

The effort to bring drag racing to Detroit has been headed by Brian Olatunji, a native of the city and a professional Funny Car driver. ‘It’s an opportunity for Detroiters to come out and celebrate car culture together in a safe, family-friendly environment,’ explains Olatunji. Not surprisingly, drag racing has a long history in Detroit, and there are several streets in the city where the squeal of tyres and cheers of spectators can be heard in the wee hours of the morning.

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‘This city has always been a place where young people wanted to meet and show their cars off – wanted to race, but most of it’s been street racing,’ Police Chief James Craig told CBS Detroit. He and Olatunji cite the Motor City Showdown as a safe and legal outlet for street racing enthusiasts.  

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If the Motor City Showdown is successful, it could mean that drag racing would find a permanent home in the city. Mayor Mike Duggan is supportive, saying ‘[I]f we can prove that these events work really well this year, then we can talk about a permanent race track.’ Car-centered tourism is already a major draw for the city: August’s Woodward Dream Cruise, a vintage auto enthusiast event, had an attendance of about 1.3 million.