Smoke billowed from tires as engines screamed and cars spun a few feet down the track – which was, in reality, an airport runway.
Satisfied their tires were broken in, the cars slowly backed up past to the start line. As the engines revved, the starter moved into position. Then, suddenly, the cars lurched forward, wailing down 660 feet of Coleman A. Young Municipal Airport to the finish.
Tyrell Mills, 34, of Detroit hollered as the cars flashed past his vantage point about halfway down the track.
"Damn. That's some power," he said. "That's what we want."
The cars – 52 of them – were competing in the first Motor City Showdown, where a drag race combined with a car show under a beating hot September sun for a big block party.
"It's going to be an American horsepower showcase back where American horsepower started," event organizer Brian Olatunji told the crowd as the event started. "We hope this can be the inaugural event in what becomes an annual event.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't have a racetrack in Detroit."
It's not unusual for their to be drag races in Detroit on Saturday nights, but this one was a little different, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said as he started the event as the grand marshal.
"Today we are going to have a legal outlaw race," he said.
The event comes a month after Roadkill Nights, a legal street drag racing event, returned to Woodward Avenue in Pontiac. In its inaugural year, Roadkill drew hundreds of amateur drag racers and as many as 30,000 spectators from across the country in 2016.