Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 | Page 128

Three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown and drag radial star Manny Buginga race in very different worlds .

But thanks to a mutual friend , their worlds came together at the 51st annual Snowbird Outlaw Nationals in early December at Bradenton Motorsports Park . Brown signed on to drive Buginga ’ s ProCharged “ Fred ” Mustang and went on to win in his Pro 275 debut .
After years of hearing about each other through mutual friend Carlo Catalanotto , Brown and Buginga met at the PRI Show a few years ago when “ Fred ” was on display . The two have become friends since then , bouncing ideas off each other and trying to figure out a way to combine their two different worlds .
While they race in different circles , the two drivers have a mutual respect for each other and for the classes they compete in .
“ When you meet serious racers , they just got that ‘ want to ’ that you can see it in them that they ’ re going to be the best ,” says Brown , who launched his own team , AB Motorsports , for the 2022 season . “ Not just ‘ want to be ’, they ’ re doing all the necessary things to be the best . I noticed that right away about Manny , just the way he carries himself and his attitude and the way he ’ s just on point .”
“ We ’ ve just been bouncing ideas off each other ,” Buginga adds . “ Antron is on the other side of the spectrum where it ’ s 330 mph . You ’ ve gotta respect that . The man ’ s talented . We took some of his ideas and bounced ideas off each other and they work .”
Between the two drivers and Catalanotto , a plan was hatched to put Brown behind the wheel of “ Fred ,” Buginga ’ s Jamie Miller-tuned , ProCharger-boosted Mustang in Pro 275 competition at the Snowbirds .
“ Carlo is like a brother to me ,” Buginga says . “ He brought us together and I asked him if he thought Antron would drive a radial car . He ’ s like , ‘ Hell yeah , he ’ s into that . He loves racing . He ’ ll drive anything on two wheels and even one . Let ’ s make it happen .’ So we started talking . The Snowbirds is the first race after our [ FuelTech
Radial Outlaws ] championship hunt , where we finished second . We put it all together . I just think it ’ s great for the sport to have a person of Antron ’ s caliber over here in radial racing with ‘ Fred .’”
Brown made two test passes on Thursday , posting a best of 4.42 at 120.98 mph shutting off early . Buginga was immediately impressed with how quickly Brown took to the car .
“ I ’ m very thankful for him coming out and putting his time into it ,” Buginga says . “ I can ’ t speak highly enough of him , how quickly he ’ s picked up on it . There ’ s no trans brake in a Top Fuel car . He picked up staging , bumping in . He did everything to the T like he was supposed to . I can ’ t say enough good things , what he brings to the table with kids and media and just being a humble person . I just can ’ t say enough about him . I just think it ’ s a great thing for us .”
Brown has operated in the polished , corporate world of NHRA professional drag racing for the past two decades , first in Pro Stock Motorcycle and most recently in Top Fuel , but he ’ s kept up with outlaw radial racing . He had a respect for the discipline from afar , and that ’ s only grown through this experience .
128 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 180