PDRA Pro Nitrous has been a hotbed of big talk this offseason. The class has risen to elite status in recent years. Just qualifying for an event deserves ample accolade, which at times, has given birth to ample ego among competitors, as well. Not all Pro Nitrous drivers are alike, however. Chris Rini isn’t one for all the talk, but that doesn’t mean he’s not more than ready to prove himself on the track. In 2016 he’ll follow the entire PDRA Pro Nitrous circuit for the first time, and the competition can be sure that while his mouth may not be hard at work, his racing program certainly is.
Rini is debuting a brand new ‘69 Chevy Camaro built by Jerry Bickel Race Cars this season. The slick looking car will pay tribute to the late founder of ATI, Jim Beattie, by copying the Funny Car ‘Black Magic’ paint scheme he made famous in the ‘70s.
I went out to assist a driver. I got underneath to hook it up, and the customer’s truck slid on top of me. I broke my shoulder, five ribs, punctured a lung, and, in trying to get out from underneath the truck, dislocated my wrist. – Chris Rini
Along with the trick new car, Rini has upgraded to the latest and greatest Buck Racing Engines 941ci BBC, as well as a new lockup torque converter design by ATI. The ‘Black Magic’ Camaro is ready to go and Rini had hoped to be testing already, preparing for the season opener in Tulsa, March 10-12, but a recent accident has him a few weeks behind schedule.
“My focus this offseason was to get this new car finished and get out testing,” explained Rini. “At the end of December I was involved in an accident. I own a towing company in New York. I went out to assist a driver. I got underneath to hook it up, and the customer’s truck slid on top of me. I broke my shoulder, five ribs, punctured a lung, and, in trying to get out from underneath the truck, dislocated my wrist.
“We were supposed to be in Bradenton, but this obviously put me behind. It’s not where I wanted to be, but the flip side of it is, I guess my accident could have been a lot worse. The racing can wait. We’re going to test in February if I feel good enough to get in the car and not worry about tire shake or anything that would stir up any problems medically with me. Ribs take 8 to 10 weeks to heal. I’ve gone over and above to in follow ups to ensure that everything is moving in the right direction. The doctors have cleared me and I feel good now. I’ve got all my movement back and I’m getting my strength back, but I just wouldn’t want to go out there and take a chance. These cars make a lot of power. You’re strapped in a seat with a seven-point harness and no cushion.
“So we’re going to do a private test session in February. ATI has a brand new, trick, lockup torque converter. I’m really excited to test that. And I’m real excited to test the new 941 that Charlie built me. I added some tricks to the new chassis. We’re looking forward to running the whole tour. Hopefully we get a couple of wins and have some fun.”
Rini has had a great deal of success in his racing career, including four championships and numerous high profile wins. Many of these came from Top Sportsman, Rini’s training ground for Pro Nitrous.
“Nitrous was something that I began learning through Top Sportsman,” he elaborated. “The transition into Pro Nitrous was a more natural transition than me going into Pro Extreme or Pro Boost. The nitrous cars have always been, in my opinion, the coolest cars to watch race, especially at night when you can see the flames coming from the headers. They are more realistic to production type cars than something with a big screw blower coming out of it.
“I really enjoy the class. It’s really nice to have one type of power adder in the class,” continued Rini, who also used to compete in Pro Street. “Nobody is complaining about parity or who has better rules. It just makes it so that everybody has a clean slate to base off of. The only way you can do better is to do better. There’s no advantage to a power adder or cubic inch. In Pro Nitrous you can go out there and compare yourself to the best of the best in the country.
“The Pro Nitrous game has become so competitive that to be up-to-date with every part of your race car is becoming more and more critical. Unless you keep evolving you’re going to get left behind. There’s nothing wrong with my old chassis, but in the world of trying to improve you would hope that a brand new car with new tubes and all the latest and greatest updates will hold some reward on the flip side of performance. The top eight people all have cars that are within a couple years old. They cycle them out every couple years just for that reason. It’s the same with motors. Any little update or innovation that happens provides more of a chance to possibly have a couple thousandths on the competition.
“The fields are separated by less than a tenth from the number 1 car to the number 16 car. People are making their career best runs and going home not qualified. It is a battle, and a battle that’s not getting any easier. There’s not a lot of room for error in an eighth mile run in under four seconds. It’ll take a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work.”
The Pro Nitrous game has become so competitive that to be up-to-date with every part of your race car is becoming more and more critical. Unless you keep evolving you’re going to get left behind. – Chris Rini
“I can’t say enough for the guys on my team,” thanked Rini. “We’re a volunteer team. These guys take off of work and drive across the country to do this with me. They work hard and love racing. I can’t say enough about these guys who pretty much volunteer all their time. I’m thankful their families are supportive. If they weren’t, we’d all be divorced or single. Dave Campbell is my Crew Chief. Tim Davis helps Crew Chief. Drew Amitrano helps do anything and everything. Ken Moser drives the truck and helps do everything in between races. Todd Kessler is another guy that jumps in wherever we need him. And then I can’t say enough about Charlie and Robin Buck. Charlie lets me keep my truck and trailer there. He helps service the car in between races. It’s like a home away from home. My fiancee, Emily Martin, is supportive. She helps out and comes to the races.”
Rini is also backed by a great team of sponsors: ATI Performance Products, Buck Racing Engines, Chris’ Automotive Center, PRO FABrication, CV Products, Miller Electric Welders, Moroso Performance Products, Switzer Dynamics, CollectorTethers.com, Braille Battery, GRP Connecting Rods, Stef’s Fabrication Specialties, VP Racing Fuel.