Start your engines — a drag racing event is coming to City Airport

Aug 17, 2017 at 8:00 am
After a years long effort that required FAA approval and drew unlikely support from Police Chief James Craig, the city of Detroit is on track to hold its first-ever legal drag racing event.

The Motor City Showdown, set to be announced by race organizers and city officials later today, will take place Sept. 23 at City Airport. It's being spearheaded by professional race car driver and native Detroiter Brian Olatunji.

"There is a huge appetite for this being that Detroit is the auto capital of the world," said Olatunji, who races funny cars with the National Hot Rod Association. "Obviously illegal street racing gets a lot of attention and growing up I was well aware, as most Detroiters are, of French Road, which has been a hot bed for illegal street racing for many years. Hosting this event is being able to actually demonstrate what drag racing is on a big stage."

Street racing remains a clandestine activity in Detroit, with racers and spectators in the know gathering at specific intersections in the wee hours on weekends to watch races and stunts. But the illegal activity can be controversial, with several media reports this summer highlighting the noise and safety concerns of people who live near racing hotspots.

Last month, after video of people hanging off cars doing donuts at Warren and Livernois went viral, WDIV set out to talk to those involved in the street racing scene, and found a man named "Mike M." leaning up against his Mustang.

"We really should have a right to do this," he told the media outlet. "If we want to race and this is something we voluntarily want to do, why don't they provide us with a place to do it?"

Street racing enthusiasts have in recent months have been petitioning for City Airport to be their sanctioned space, and two months ago were met with tentative support as they pitched the idea to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

"[Chief Craig] thinks if we can prove that these events work really well this year, then we can talk about a permanent race track if there is a basis for it,” Duggan said at the time.

With the municipal airport losing money, Detroit officials have accepted proposals for non-aviation uses of the site, with an eye toward economic impact and job creation.

While Olatunji says the Motor City Showdown isn't taking a position on the airport's future, he would like to see the event become an annual thing.

"The goal is for this to be a dope event that Detroit can look at no different than the Ford Fireworks, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Grand Prix, the Auto Show," he said "It's an opportunity for Detroiters to come out and celebrate car culture together in a safe, family-friendly environment."

The Motor City Showdown will be held Sept. 23. Tickets are $20 and available at