Roadkill’s Mike Finnegan and Tony Angelo meet the “nailie.”
A unique event in the world of motorsports, the Merrill Ice Drags attracted the attention of the “Roadkill” show, which filmed at the frozen Lake Alexander drag strip on Saturday. Roadkill personalities Mike Finnegan and Tony Angelo drove their “Earle Camino” – a moldy Chevy El Camino drag car – from St. Louis to Merrill, experiencing both a snowstorm and mechanical woes along the way.
Episodes of Roadkill typically involve an epic road trip in a questionably roadworthy vehicle. The destination is often a drag strip or other automotive event, where the hapless clunker is further flogged. Sometimes the vehicle doesn’t survive, sometimes they don’t even get where they’re going, and almost always they show up much later than planned.
Roadkill viewers first met the Earle Camino last year when Finnegan and Angelo purchased the retired race car in North Carolina and attempted to get it back on the track, ending in frustrating failure.
The pair pulled the El Camino out of mothballs and hit the road to Wisconsin, to see what the “world’s fastest eighth-mile auto racing on ice” was all about. (Keith Krueger holds the current record, covering the 660-foot track in 5.431 seconds at 141.6 mph).
The Earle Camino and its pilots, cult celebrities among drag racing enthusiasts, drew a large crowd as they pulled out onto the ice along with two car loads of film crew and gear.
Angelo and Finnegan were introduced to the “nailie,” a rear tire bristling with thousands of drywall screws that ice draggers have perfected to provide traction on the ice. After switching to a borrowed set of nailies, the two Roadkill stars laid down several successful eighth-mile passes in the Earle Camino. Between blasts down the strips, the pair met with racers and fans.
Roadkill’s appearance bolstered both attendance and pit pass sales, noted Merrill Ice Draggers Vice President Cindy Opichka. Fans came from far and wide to meet the Roadkill personalities. Finnegan and Angelo hung out with racers for some time after the drags concluded.
Another special feature at Saturday’s races was Mike Sandefur from Indiana and his custom-built “Crusty” dual-turbo’d, methanol-injected, 2,200-hp Chevy pickup truck. The truck didn’t challenge Krueger’s record, but did escape a near disaster at the big end of the track.
Aside from the frenzy surrounding Roadkill’s visit, Saturday was the annual MID Memorial race, remembering past racers and club members who have passed on. This year, the club paid special tribute to Keith Woller, a long-time racer and club officer who passed away last year.
The Earle Camino’s voyage to Merrill and the Merrill Ice Drags will be featured on a future episode of Roadkill, which airs on Motor Trend On Demand and Motor Trend’s YouTube Channel.
“We’re very excited to see the episode,” Opichka said. “It will be very cool to see what comes out of it.”
The Merrill Ice Drags started in 1965 as a way for local drivers to enjoy the sport of drag racing during the long Wisconsin winters. The Merrill Ice Draggers Club incorporated in 1970. From the rubber tire to Outlaw class, the races feature categories for just about any vehicle.
The Merrill Ice Drags season continues this Saturday with the championships, followed by the just-for-fun grudge match and bracket races on Saturday, Feb. 24. Races get underway at noon both Saturdays, weather and ice conditions permitting.