Chris Rini, who was on the leading edge of the torque converter and automatic transmission movement in Pro Modified, has accepted his invitation to race in the $100,000-to-win 2023 Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod. Rini, who’s earned championships in multiple classes, will be one of several nitrous-assisted drivers racing in the marquee eighth-mile Pro Mod event at Bradenton Motorsports Park on March 3-5, 2023.
“I was hoping I would get on the exclusive list,” Rini said. “I watched the YouTube release from SEMA. [Wes Buck] talked about how there was no so-called criteria list, they were just looking for people who push the needle and try to push drag racing forward. I’m excited to be on the list.”
Rini’s Pro Mod career began in the mid-2000s. Since then, his car has served as a test bed for ATI Performance Products’ new product development. In the early days, Rini was often the only driver to show up with a torque converter and automatic transmission. He was one of the drivers who persevered through the development stages, and now the combination is the industry standard at Pro Mod’s highest levels.
“I showed up to my first Pro Mod race, and they laughed me out of the place,” Rini said. All the guys came over – guys I’ve become friends with over the years, some that we still race with – and they laughed about it. ‘No man pedal,’ ‘that transmission’s in my grandma’s Malibu,’ ‘the converter will never be competitive,’ ‘an OEM transmission will never be competitive.’ We heard all the comments. The converter-driven was the first thing frowned upon, then the second thing was the OEM transmission behind it.
“Here we are in 2022 and the fastest Pro Boost cars in the world run Turbo 400s,” Rini said. “Some of the fastest nitrous passes, especially in Radial vs. the World, have been made with the Turbo 400. Today, we make 50 runs and send them back just to get them checked. We’re going sub-.950 [60-foot] on a good racetrack and going 3.60s to the finish line.”
Over the years, Rini claimed the 2010 and 2012 NMCA Pro Street championships, the 2013 Big Dog Shootout championship, and the 2019 Carolina Xtreme Pro Mod title. He’s also excelled in PDRA Pro Nitrous, earning his first two wins in the class this season on his way to a runner-up finish in the championship points. Through it all, he’s helped to develop and prove the viability of the automatic combo in high-horsepower, high-pressure applications.
“I’m one of the guys who went through the rough years and now it’s really reaped its rewards,” Rini said. “Even when we were going through the trials and tribulations of breaking the next part that needed to be upgraded, we still went rounds and won races and championships.”
Rini is part of an all-star, invitation-only group of 40 drivers that will attempt to qualify for the 32-car WSOPM field. The list includes names from across drag racing’s numerous Pro Mod classes, as well as other categories like Radial vs. the World and Top Fuel.
“I’m sure I’ll get to race with a few people I’ve never raced with, which is going to be great,” Rini said. “I’ve never raced with Frankie Taylor ever. I’ve obviously raced with all the nitrous guys. I haven’t raced with Mark Micke since back in the NMCA days. It’ll be exciting.”
Rini plans to debut his brand-new ATI Performance Products “Silver Bullet,” a Bickel-built ’69 Camaro sporting a Buck 959ci powerplant. Rini believes it’s the “leanest, meanest, and lightest” car he’s ever owned, and he knows he’ll need it when he races for $100,000 at the World Series of Pro Mod.
“It’s going to be a dog-eat-dog race no matter how you slice it,” said Rini, who thanked ATI Performance Products, his crew, wife Emily, his crew’s wives, Charlie and Robin Buck of Buck Racing Engines, and Brandon Switzer of Switzer Dynamics. “I don’t think anyone’s going to come in with an advantage. The people that are on the list so far will bring the right car, the right crew, and the right parts. It’s going to be anybody’s race.”
Rini joins Mark Micke, Tommy Franklin, Justin Bond, Frankie Taylor, Jim Halsey, Randy Merick, Melanie Salemi, and Jason Scruggs as locked-in drivers for the 2023 World Series of Pro Mod. Drag Illustrated will continue to announce locked-in drivers as invitations are accepted. Visit www.WorldSeriesofProMod.com for event updates.