Chris Rini turned out to be the lone big winner this weekend during promoter Keith Berry’s 4th annual Wooostock doorslammer event. The event was cut short by dew settling in after midnight at historic Darlington Dragway with Radials vs. the World and X275 ready to enter the semi-finals. Full purses were split evenly for the remaining competitors in both classes.
After qualifying eighth with a 3.69 at 200.36 mph in the 16-car Noonan Pro Mod field, Rini drove his ATI Performance Products ’69 Camaro through Kurt Steding, number-one qualifier John Strickland and Jeff Miller to reach current PDRA Pro Nitrous champion Jim Halsey in the final.
“We ended up eighth so we had to race nine, so you know, on paper we had the tightest first round and it never got any easier from there,” said Rini, the reigning Carolina Xtreme Pro Mod (CXPM) champ. “We were on a real tough side of the ladder but we got through it and we had a good car, good power, and we just made good runs all day.”
Rini opened with a 3.74 at 200.62-mph pass over Steding, then followed up with a holeshot win over an uncharacteristically late Strickland in round two. A .032 leave by Rini in the right lane was enough to allow his 3.76 at 200.18 to beat Strickland’s 3.72 by more than a hundredth.
Rini’s first pair of elimination wins were highlighted by big mid-track wheelies, though, so he calmed down his ride for round three and improved to a 3.72 at 201.79 mph against Jeff Miller and his blown “Bumblebee” 2017 Camaro.
That set up a final showdown against Halsey, who steered his nitrous-fed ’69 Camaro past Stan Shelton and doorslammer legend Rickie Smith before taking on third-place qualifier Randy Weatherford, where he lit up the Darlington scoreboards with an unreal 3.56 winning pass at just 203.71 mph.
“Yeah, I don’t know what went wrong, but that time’s not right,” stated Halsey, who owns Cecil County Dragway in Maryland. “So that means he (Rini) will get lane choice based on a timing malfunction.”
Unfortunately for Halsey, the pass also led to significant internal damage to his nitrous-fed engine, prompting a between-rounds swap by his Brandon Switzer-led crew. Regardless, Rini took nothing for granted.
“There’s no comfort factor at all,” he stressed. “I mean, Jim Halsey is one of the best of the best, obviously last year’s PDRA world champion and he has Brandon Switzer tuning–just like I do–so i know he’s good and he’s got a great team all the way around. Bottom line, the final is going to be tough no matter what happens.”
In a battle of champions for the Wooostock 4 win, Rini took a .020 starting-line advantage and never looked back, leading an eighth-mile later with another wheelstanding 3.65 effort at 203.80 over Halsey’s 3.67 at 203.62 combo.
“Yeah, I knew it could be decided on the tree, so I rolled in there, got the motor cleared out and then I cleared my head as I was starting to roll into the beams,” Rini recalled. “When it took off it was probably a little bit better than I expected it to be and then it came up to wheelie again through the middle and I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ And it overcame that and really made a killer run. At the end of the run I saw the win light on the wall and I was just happy as can be.”
It marked Rini’s third-straight race win after scoring the final CXPM race of 2019 to cap off his championship run and the 2020 CXPM season opener, also at Darlington.
“You know, we’re trying to run big numbers in not the best weather conditions. It’s hot, it’s humid, but the track was on point. I gotta’ say, they prepped the track killer for that run,” Rini said.
“You know, the cars are so good now, the teams are so good, the tracks are so good, and I mean, you can see it any on any given day, any one of these cars could win,” he continued. “It’s just a matter of putting together the best run that car could make under those specific conditions and then the driver doing the best he can to get off the start line first. And yeah, a little luck will always help, too.”