2021 American Festival of Speed wants to bring the glory of Goodwood to Pontiac, Michigan
The Woodward Dream Cruise may be a no-go this year, but Detroit’s sweetest hot rods won’t languish in their garages. At least, not if the Woodward Dream Show has done its job.
The new event, scheduled August 13–15, is meant to attract the cream of the Dream Cruise crop to Pontiac, Michigan’s M1 Concourse performance track. It’ll be a ticketed, judged event (on August 13) with show cars spread across 13 classes, but the plan is for the Dream Show to offer a whole lot more. In the works is a whole three-day extravaganza, with point-to-point timed racing (August 14) on M1’s 1.5-mile road course, a car-themed fashion show and “afterglow” party, and a huge cars and coffee meet (August 15). To close out the event, Sunday will host a car parade on Woodward Avenue departing from M1 (August 16).
The company behind all of this, Pontiac Motorsports Exposition (PME), is also planning something much bigger than a Detroit hot rod show, however. Come fall 2021, PME hopes to host the American Festival of Speed—a world-class automotive event that, in no uncertain terms, aims to bring the joyous international energy of Goodwood to metro Detroit.
The 87-acre M1 Concourse, built atop the ruins of a GM factory, is a club facility with privately-owned car condos on site. M1 is known locally for holding public cars and coffee events on the weekends, renting out its track for car club events, and hosting the Dodge-sponsored Roadkill Nights, a massive Dream-Cruise-week bash that brings tens of thousands of visitors to Pontiac for city-approved drag racing on Woodward Avenue.
“The idea is to bring people to Pontiac—make it an epicenter for all things automotive,” says PME CEO Tim Hartge. “The American Festival of Speed will honor cars of the past, present, and future. It has to have relevance for today and for what’s ahead—think esports and iRacing.”
Hartge said he would be pleased if the Dream Show attracted 10,000 people over three days. The American Festival of Speed, however, is targeting a much larger audience, one more on par with the 200,000 visitors that flock to Goodwood each year for its signature event.
Pontiac Motorsports Exposition came together early this year, started by Hartge and Paul Zlotoff of Uniprop Partners, Ltd., the Birmingham, Michigan-based real estate equity investment firm that owns a controlling interest of M1 Concourse. Apparently, Zlotoff didn’t see the need to fly to England to experience the automotive fanfare of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed. Why shouldn’t there be something like that in the Motor City? He and Hartge opted to bring the party to his doorstep instead, envisioning a Disney-like experience that combines today’s cars with future concepts, vintage motorsports, high-quality food experiences, and even a charity ball.
Of course, Pontiac’s Festival of Speed will have its work cut out to replicate the genius of Goodwood, with its Forest Rally Stage, Supercar Run, and famous hill climb. Goodwood’s sister event, the Revival, has its own old-school flavor, imbued with the charm of scrappy, greasy, glorious vintage racing that crowds savor every year at Lord March’s estate. (That’s not feasible at M1 Concourse, a track neither designed nor intended for wheel-to-wheel racing.) Cars of many stripes—past and present—will be hitting the track during the American Festival of Speed, albeit in timed point-to-point competition surely meant to echo Goodwood’s hill climb.
Fans of vintage racing will, however, have a chance to witness three of Jim Hall’s iconic Chaparral Can Am cars from the 1960s burning rubber around M1’s track as part of the 2021 America Festival of Speed. (Hall will be presented with a Master of Motorsports Award as part of the event.) In addition, a gaggle of Can-Am Shadow race cars will be in attendance, belting their Chevy big-block tunes into the open air. Several of these sinister ’70s monsters (plus an open-wheel F5000 with a 5.0-liter Dodge motor) owned by collector Jim Bartel were out at M1 Concourse last week for a shakedown ahead of a Shadow car reunion planned for Road America this July.
Bold and brave as it is to want to invigorate metro Detroit with automotive fervor, there’s no avoiding the public health realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a brutal, challenging time to be planning and promoting large public events. For the Woodward Dream Show this August, PME says it is working closely with the Oakland County Sheriff on how to safely manage the crowds. Attendees will be encouraged to wear masks, and there will be sanitary stations and gloves around the facility as well as numerous attendants to wipe down bathrooms. All ticket sales will be handled online, with WiFi on site so visitors can buy tickets on the spot without physical contact with event staff.
Tickets for the 2020 Woodward Dream Show will start at $35 for a single-day pass, $57.50 for a two-day pass, and $85 for a three-day pass. All-day parking is $15. No doubt, the first Dream Show will be an opportunity for organizers to get a feel for what’s possible at M1, as organizers work to finalize next year’s American Festival of Speed, currently planned for September 30–October 2, 2021.