Drivers Rini, Tuten Ready for Action in NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals at zMAX Dragway
Sure, Chris Rini and Chris Tuten have normal jobs, but their true passion is drag racing. Rini, a passenger on U.S. Airways Flight 1549 from New York to Charlotte, N.C., that crashed into the Hudson River, is a record-setting racer with multiple championships under his belt. South Carolina-native Tuten is a two-time drag racing champion with more than 15 years experience. Rini and Tuten are just two of the hundreds of drivers who will compete Aug. 6-8 in the second annual NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
The three-day event features two of the country's top sanctioning bodies for street-legal drag racing, the National Mustang Racing Association and the National Muscle Car Association, each of which will conduct an individual event, the NMRA Ford Nationals and the NMCA Muscle Car Nationals at the Bellagio of drag strips. Fans in attendance will witness the world's best street-legal muscle car drag racers competing at the world's only all-concrete, four-lane drag strip.
Two of those racers are Rini and Tuten. When he's not running Chris' Automotive Center in his hometown of Carmel, N.Y., Rini is competing in the NMCA Pro Street class, where he is currently second in points and has two wins to his credit this season. He recently set a new Pro Street record with a pass of 6.185 seconds at 232 miles per hour with his 2007 Dodge Stratus pro-modified in the NMCA Super Bowl in Joliet, Ill.
Rini has been drag racing for 10 years and had his best season in 2009, with 10 wins and a runner-up spot in the point standings, the same year in which he took the fateful U.S. Airways flight that landed in the Hudson River.
"I was asked after the plane crash whether that was my luck running out, but I think my luck was just beginning," Rini said. "When I race, I've got 25 times the safety equipment than there is in an airplane, so I definitely feel safe."
Rini is looking forward to competing in the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals at zMAX Dragway this weekend.
"We're excited to come back to Charlotte," Rini continued. "zMAX Dragway is a beautiful facility. It's got that superspeedway glam in the racing Mecca of the world. There's so much for fans to do and see with both the NMRA and NMCA competing there this weekend.
"Fans will like the competition in the NMCA Pro Street class because there's so much variety. There could be a '55 Chevy in one lane and a 2010 Pontiac GXP in the other. That's what Pro Street is all about and it's great for the fans because they get to see lots of makes and models."
Tuten, from Pelion, S.C., has been drag racing for 15 years and had plenty of success along the way. He is the 2003 NMRA Real Street World Champion and 2005 NMRA Drag Radial World Champion. He has been competing in the NMRA Super Street Outlaw class for the last three seasons.
Throughout his 15 years, Tuten has raced with the same car: a 1987 Mustang 5.0 that currently has completed 179 passes. Each weekend he takes three or four people with him to the track when he races to help tune the car, but racing in Charlotte is special for Tuten because so many other family members can come along to the track.
"We've got so many people there it looks like a refugee camp," he said. "But we didn't do so well at zMAX Dragway last year. It's more than making one good pass, you have to put a whole weekend together and we didn't. We're looking forward to coming back this year. That facility is so awesome to compete on and it's great for the spectators, they'll get to see such a wide variety of cars."
Tuten is fully dedicated to continuing his drag racing success. During the week he works at his brother's business, the Muffler Shop of Columbia, but after work he dedicates two to three hours each night, and most of his Saturdays, to making his car faster. Sundays, however, are for relaxing.
"I like to do nothing really," he said.
This weekend at zMAX Dragway, drivers in the NMRA Pro Outlaw and Super Street Outlaw classes will compete to see who has the fastest Ford Mustang and for the NMCA, the Pro Street and Super Street 10.5W classes will be represented. More than 20 of the top NMRA/NMCA drivers in the world will participate during the weekend. Each of the cars entered have recorded quarter-mile times of six seconds and speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.
The NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals will also include two separate car shows, a massive vendor midway, a sprawling swap meet and the legendary burnout contest.
Four jet engine-powered cars will also be on hand, unleashing 20,000 horsepower on zMAX Dragway's four lanes as they soar down the strip at the same time in an epic exhibition.
The NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals begin Friday at zMAX Dragway with an open test and tune at 9 a.m. First round qualifying will start at 1 p.m.
with second round qualifying following at 5 p.m. Saturday's action includes additional qualifying and exhibitions, along with car show awards. The event will wrap-up Sunday with pre-race ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. and eliminations for both the NMRA and NMCA at noon. The car show and manufacturer's swap meet will take place Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 8 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $25 each day or $70 for a weekend pass. Children 12 and under are admitted free all weekend when accompanied by an adult. For more information on the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals at zMAX Dragway visit www.zmaxdragway.com.