Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Atomic Blast 10: Rat Rod inferno of good times

 Atomic Blast Rat Rod event at Gulfport Dragway.

Junkyard Life had a Blast… An Atomic Blast. The annual Rat Rod celebration in Gulfport, Mississippi is very aptly named The Atomic Blast. This is one of the only West Coast flavored Rat Rod Runs on this side of Nevada. We are now believers in The Atomic Blast. We've always loved the original recyclers (hot rodders) but now we have an all new appreciation for driving junk. These apocalyptic cars captivated our hearts for two days. Simple, not simple, fast, brutal, fun loving, flat, satin, fire! I need a thesaurus to find more words to describe this fun event.

We had heard of the Atomic Blast, but had never attended. Once our friend Stefanie Lea from Road Rage Garage heard we had never been, she made a request (an order?) for us to attend. Stefanie has found a way to submerse herself in what she loves — flat finished patina preserved tire smoking hot rods and the great people that come along with them.

The weather forecast would have scared the slick hot rods away. Not the Rat Rods. Keep in mind, some of these are driven and they don’t necessarily handle well in the rain. Some of them don’t actually have a water tight roof. Yet, these tire smokers did come from near and far.    

A pink rat rod truck burns the tire completely off the rim.
The Rat Rods burn rubber until they got no more to burn.

Smoking Isn’t good for You? Yes, It Is!

These rat rod guys are not afraid to light em’ up. This is practically an event that advocates smoking…tires that is. They like crawfish too, but let’s get back to the smoking. Junkyard Life brother Jay explained to us newbies why it is called “The Atomic Blast.”  He explained it to us, but yet…unpack all of your adjectives and you still feel the best words really are “Atomic Blast.”

Stefanie Lea raises her arms to signal the rat rods to start burning their tires.
Stefanie Lea says "Light'em up!"

Stefanie Lea: The Goddess of the Burning Radials 

Coordinator and hostess Stefanie Lea waits until near dark. Then she places two Rat Rods that are actually flame throwers on the track behind the burnout box (another aptly named area). She then places as many fearless homegrown Rats in the burnout box that dare rise to her calling.

When the sun begins to lower itself in the horizon behind the Gulfport Dragway, Stefanie raises her arms like a symphony conductor and line locks engage. RPMs go up and she gives the go ahead to start incinerating tires. Wait. There is more.

Once the cars begin to disappear engulfed in the tire smoke–another cue from Stefanie awakens the now invisible flame throwers to shoot fire from the center of the smoke...thus, The Atomic Blast!

Billowing smoke rises high above the burnout box and flame throwers shoot up into the sky making an atomic spectacle.
This looks like the aftermath of an atomic blast. Well, not a real one, just the smoke and fire from dozens of big block rat rods, some with built-in flame throwers. It is a sight to behold! 

Watch this! The sight, the smell we love (Hey, note to self: million dollar scented candle idea) and the sound. Oh my. The sound. The sounds we love from a variety of Detroit power plants. Roaring together in automotive symphonic harmony. You can feel the heat and the patriotism. Many rods are adorned in American flags and like the song says, when the smoke clears, the flags are one of the first things you see. You, my friend, have been Atomic Blasted. There is no coming back from that.

Dennis Landry wheels his RATical rat rod down a beach road in Gulfport, Mississippi


This sub culture of the car genre is so much fun. The Atomic Blast offers so many activities and is so inclusive. If you feel you just can’t see everything…fear not. Stefanie has included what she calls “Roll Call” where every car cruises, i.e., “rolls” in front of the bleachers to give everyone a good look and often a little rubber is left behind.

Grumpy's 1941 Dodge WF-31 with a Detroit Diesel 92TA engine and flame throwers that shoot enormous amounts of fire high into the air.

More Cruising Add Water and Music

The Atomic Blasters also do a beach cruise along the beautiful coast of Gulfport and Biloxi. Nothing is more rock and roll than that. Except maybe the musical guest. The Martini Shakers treated us to some awesome throw back rock-a-billy.  A great band and really nice people. It is so nice to see and meet people that love where they are and what they do. These guys rock.

There was even a kid’s motor bike cruise that also drew a lot of attention. What can you do if you are a young car guy or girl that can’t yet have four wheels? You make do with two wheels and look like a tiny Fonz. "Ayyy!"

Rat rodders compete in the crawfish eating contest at the Atomic Blast 10.
Crawfish eating contest is part of the kick-off festivities.

Cruising, Crabs, Crawfish, Rats – oh my!

To kick our weekend off, we caught the cruise to The Cajun Crawfish Hut in Long Beach, Mississippi. Just a stone's throw from Gulfport down Beach Boulevard on Highway 90. Here, they fed us spectacular food, rocked us with the Martini Shakers and schooled us in crawfish consumption. The now famous Atomic Blast Crawfish Eating Contest was soon underway. MC’ed by the infamous original rat rodder Dennis Landry, aka Crab or Crab Who? This event was great messy fun! The winning consumer of the Cajun crustaceans was a 27-year-old Army paratrooper named Shane Jackson. Shane is no stranger to Atomic Blast awards. It seems the first rat rod he built kicked the bucket on the first time out, which granted him the dreaded “Damn My Luck” award. 

We spotted more than 200 Rat Rods and other cool cruisers in the pit area and campgrounds at Gulfport Dragway during the Atomic Blast 10.

We Want More!

Do you like traditional home grown hot rod fun? Do Rat Rods fill your hot rod heart? Then you need to do this. Do you want to see a 425 Olds duke it out with a 390 Ford? Grudge races, swap meet, food, music and tire smoking traditions? The Atomic Blast is for you. This annual Rat Rod Run is held every April at the Gulf Port Dragway. Let us not let the West Coast have all the fun. Thank you, Road Rage Garage for including us in the party. Check those calendars and we will see you there! We were told they also have a Halloween event in October for those of us who will have a hard time waiting. Keep a rat look at the calendar and never miss The Blast again.


Ron Kidd

— Junkyard Life 

Step 1: Apply throttle

Step 2: Hold down the gas pedal

Step 3: Never let up

Shane Sink, Jackson, Mississippi

Shane Sink's winning combo burned the tires right off the rim.

Dennis Landry, Larose, Louisiana
Landry, known as the godfather of this event with his big-cubed Rat Rods and willingness to keep the rubber burning and the party going was also the Master of Ceremonies at the Atomic Blast. You could spot him easily in his orange shirt and white overalls.

Dennis Landry gets ready to fire up his Rat Rod for a beach cruise.

And away he goes!

Burnout box was always filled with mayhem. Two rat rods take a spin for the crowd.

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Send emails to Jody Potter at 
or Ron Kidd at

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