Without question, Manny Buginga is the darling of the 5.0 Mustang racingworld in 2005. He's in all the NMRA ads; he's won the WFC Pro StreetOutlaw class; he has established a new world record of 7.37 e.t. for anyracecar on 28x10.5 slicks; and, above all, he's garnered the unflappablerespect of all of the hardcore heads-up racers. As he closes in on the'05 NMRA SSO Championship, Manny seems poised to take his rightful placenext to all of history's greatest racers from the modern era of Fordracing. His work ethic unmatched; his driving skills unquestionable; hispersonality infectious; and his drive to win the flame the ignites hisred, white, and blue notchback; Manny Buginga will likely be the mostmemorable racer of a season that has already delivered with such impact.We went to Manny to see how he feels that he stacks up today and wherethis 5.0 Mustang superstar sees himself tomorrow.
1.0 How did you get startedin heads-up Mustang drag racing?
After many years of street racing (which to any kids reading this I donot condone) and street nights at the track trying to get quicker times,I started to race with a local heads-up series called MHRA. Through thisseries, I found a place where my competitive nature could run wild in asafer environment. Also, there were no speeding tickets that threatenedtaking my driver's license away. After being successful in the localevents, I decided to start traveling to some of the closer tracks forlarger events. Some of these events included NMRA Maple Grove 2001 whereI entered Drag Radial, but I had a strong desire to be running in theSSO class. Needless to say, I knew after that event that I didn't feelthat Drag Radial was going to make me a happy racer. Then, later thatyear, I attended Fords at E-Town and entered the Street Outlaw class.There were not as many tough competitors that I might have found atNMRA, but there were a few that I needed to work hard against. At that Ievent I found myself in the finals racing against a well-known racer andsomeone that I had admired--Tommy Trotter. I was not victorious at thatevent, but it did give me a feeling like no other, and that is when Idecided I was going to follow my heart and attempt to quench my desireto be an Outlaw racer.
2.0 What is the appeal forsmall-tired Mustang drag racing?
As far as the Mustang part of it, I have always had a love for the car.I owned my first Mustang before I even had a driver's license, and Ihave always owned one since then. The small tires seem to be an addedchallenge to the class--not only are you trying to be fast and fasterthan the person in the next lane, but it takes a lot of work to applythe power that these cars generate to be affective on the track and notjust go up in smoke. Now it also seems that the new challenge is howfast we can get them to go. Elapsed times that people, including myself,thought were unobtainable have now become my reality. But like any racerknows, there is always the mindset that 'I can get it to be just alittle bit faster', and that leaves the question open of 'Now how fastdo you think they can go? ' 7.20's, or 200 mph? Who knows? And, if[that's possible], who will be the one to do it?
3.0 Is there an advantage ofa turbocharger over nitrous and supercharging as it specifically relatesto small-tired Mustang drag racing?
I feel that everyone is going to have his own preference of what theybelieve is a better additive. But for me, I believe that the advantageof the turbo is that there is less wear on the car. Initially there weredisadvantages with deciding to go with a turbo. The start-up costs of aturbo setup were a lot more costly than others, but then you see overtime that the maintenance costs are less. Also, you need to learn how tocontrol the boost made and to drive with sometime high rates of boostacceleration. There needs to be a good balance of how much boost youleave the starting line with and how much more is made throughout therun for it to be successful. When there are cars with differentpower-additives racing against each other, as long as the eventorganizers keep the rules fair to how each separate one can be capableof performing, then the advantage is personal preference and what makesyou happy.
4.0 Has the full impact ofyour world record 7.37 pass set in yet?
At the time that it happened it was mystical, but yes it set in quicklybecause it was something the whole team worked hard for and should beacknowledged for. Holding the record is a great feeling but I know thatsomeday there will be someone else who will claim it as theirs, and whenthey do I will give them their deserved respect, because I know the hardwork it takes to achieve new levels.
5.0 Will an NMRA worldchampionship make all of the sacrifices worth it?
When I set out for my first SSO race, I was out to win this thing, and Ihave never given up on that goal. At that time I didn't realize just howmuch work, sacrifice, sweat, blood, and sometimes tears it was going totake to be a competitive racer. Not only myself, but my wife, Jen, crewchief, Job, and crewmember, Pat Speer, put so much time and energy intothis. Most of the time we get home from one race, and we're alreadypreparing to get to the next. This take a lot of time away from ourlives--like spending time with family, time away from work, andrelaxation. But, we all agree that we have a great time racing withNMRA. The racing itself is fun, but we have also met so many greatpeople through this that we like to spend time with. So, I would neverchange the past should I not win. But, I will be honest--I really wantthe title of world champion, so yes it would be worth it, not only forme but also for the many people who have stood behind me for all theseyears.
6.0 What kind ofsponsorships are out there for NMRA SSO racers?
You would be surprised at what is available. Whenever there is someoneor a business that is interested in being part of this sport they aresometimes willing to help out. One of my first sponsors came from alocal auto body shop, Modern Auto Body that provided the patriotic paintthat covers my car, which would have cost a lot of money. Fran, theowner, has continued to give generous support through the years. Therehave been other local businesses that have helped us out includingAshley Ford, a Ford dealership, and MPE racing, a speed shop. You alsocan get tied in with companies within the racing industry that canprovide a product you use, which cuts down greatly on your costs. For usDynamic racing transmissions, Turbonetics Turbo, Neal Chance RacingConverters, NGK Spark Plugs, Kooks Custom Headers, Auto Meter, andothers have provided free products or maintenance. Also, some companieswill provide monetary support, like with our agreement with Toyo Tires.Toyo provides monetary and product sponsorship in return for testing andpromoting their new 28x10.5 drag slick soon to be on the market. To allthe racers, there is help out there, you just need to put yourself outthere to be seen through hard work, and networking.
7.0 What have you learnedfrom watching or interacting with former SSO world champions?
I have to say that I owe most of my success to one former champ, JobSpetter. At his young age, he has been a pioneer of the new age offuel-injected racing, and he is also an innovator, continually tryingout new ideas to stay on top in this highly competitive sport. Job hasalways tuned my car, and I have always seemed to be fast for the givencombination. My first and second years of racing SSO, I ranked sixth andthird respectively--not too bad for a newcomer. I feel fortunate to havemet Job. I have learned a lot from him through the years, and now withhim by my side, I feel very confident that I could be a contender forthis year's championship.
8.0 What does it take tohave a competitive SSO engine program?
Since I know nothing about engine building, I first go to someone whospecializes in this. Scott Merkel of Merkel Race engines has beenbuilding my motors for the past four years. Then, we use an enginemanagement system. Job tunes my car using ACCEL DFI. To be competitivetakes routine maintenance--I check my motor after every race, and we takeit out to be freshened several times during the season. Also, the wholecombination needs to work well together from front-to-back turbo,engine, converter, transmission, and rearend. And, you need a tune thatwill be safe for the racing conditions. You need to know your car andlearn how it will react to certain things. To achieve this takes a lotof testing, trying out different parts, and tune-ups.
9.0 Can you describe yourtesting program for our readers?
One word: tiresome. I [test a lot] because this is what it takes to dowell. I started my season by spending a week in February down in Floridajust testing prior to the opening event in Bradenton. It seemed to payoff since it was the first time at a Bradenton event that I went pastthe first round--I went all the way to the winner's circle. We oftenspend a day at the track in between races just trying out new things andtrying to improve. Sometimes we even have to get in on a race night ifwe cannot make it to a track, like the Friday night in Michigan we racedto get testing in for WFC.
10.0 Can you compare yourMobil 1 World Ford Challenge victory to any other accomplishment in yourlife?
I can't really say whether or not it compares to other lifeaccomplishments. Life and events in it can take you to different levelsof feelings, and you feel that most when you are living in that moment.But, I can say that winning WFC was one of the proudest moments I havehad in my racing career for the work of my team and myself.
11.0 Why do you race a turbocar?
Me personally, I love the turbo cars. I always liked the sound of theboost escaping through the waste-gates as the power is let off. Butrealistically, they are efficient in making power, and seem to put lessstress on major car components like the motor.
12.0 Do you have any advisefor someone contemplating coming out and racing NMRA SSO?
Make sure it is what you really want to do. Racing with a series takescommitment, time, and hard work. Building a SSO car can cost a lot ofunnecessary money if it is something you cannot stick with. There aremany different classes, and organizations to pick from. You need to picksomething that you will be able to manage for time and money since youwill probably spend twice the amount of your estimated budget, and thenthere is the upkeep. For those who are up for the challenge, come onout--we always need new competitors to keep the sport alive.
13.0 What goals do you setfor yourself if you win both the WFC and NMRA in the same season--what'snext for Manny Buginga?
At this time I really don't know. You may see me in SSO again, but withthe success that I have had so far this year many new opportunities havecome about. I hope that someday my goal to become a NHRA Funny Cardriver will be achieved, but as for now I am not sure where my path willlead to. But, I do know that my love for racing will probably keep mearound for a while.
14.0 Is it true that youwere a dance instructor in a former life?
Absolutely! You've seen my moves, is there any question?