While it had been eight years since Manny Buginga competed in his familiar and formidable red, white and blue turbocharged Fox body Mustang, he announced a return to the NMRA in 2016.
As expected, the multi-time champion succeeded and secured a fifth-place finish in NMRA VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw and a thirteenth-place finish in NMCAVP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw points despite competing in a different turbocharged Fox body Mustang on an abbreviated schedule while focusing on his business, MJM Construction Corp in Massachusetts.
Intent on inching up in the points chase, he circled each NMRA and NMCA event on his calendar for 2017, and, in yet a different car — a 2003 Mustang — he earned a runner-up finish at the NMRA event in Florida in March, won the NMRA event in Ohio in June, won the combined NMRA/NMCA event in Illinois in July and won the NMCA event in Ohio in August.
Along the way, he claimed the elapsed-time and top-speed records on the NMRA side with a 4.33 and 177.47 mph, and on the NMCA side with a 4.33 and 169.74 mph in the car featuring a DiSomma Racing Engines-built small-block Ford fronted by a 98mm Turbonetics turbo. It’s paired with a Proformance Racing Transmissions-built Turbo 400 and Neal Chance converter, and it’s tuned by Nick Bruder via a FuelTech engine management system and NRL AMS-2000.
Buginga was second in points going into the final NMCA event of the season, the 16th Annual SDPC Raceshop NMCA World Street Finals, Sept. 21-24 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana. There, he qualified in the second spot with a 4.396 and made it to the second round, where he was forced to lift. Rich Bruder, who’s piloting Buginga’s 1991 Mustang with a DiSomma Racing Engines-built small-block Ford and ProCharger combination, led qualifying with a 4.393 and made it to the second round, where he was forced to lift as well. It’s worth noting that a month prior, Bruder blasted to a best of 4.35 at the NMCA race at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
“My focus at the race in Indy was on Rich Bruder and I qualifying in the number one and number two spots with a ProCharger combination and a turbo combination,” said Buginga. “We did that.”
Now, Buginga, who currently holds the lead in NMRA VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw over Charlie Cooper by just 30 points, is preparing to fight for the season championship at the 19th Annual Nitto NMRA All-Ford World Finals, Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky. With him every step of the way will be his wife, Jen; children Manny and Lilly, as well as crew members Pat Speer, Bobby Demelo and Rich and Nick Bruder.
“The car is already in Bowling Green, where the tires and the fluids are being changed, and then I’ll test on Thursday before qualifying on Friday,” said Buginga. “The goal for the weekend is to put the turbo car in the number one spot and then take it one round at a time.”