OUTLAW RACER OF THE YEAR ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
“ If you want to be the best , you have to race the best .”
Manny Buginga makes no bones about his motto . He proved he was the best when he went toe-to-toe with some of the fiercest drag racers in the world during the 2022 season .
Buginga spent time bouncing back and forth from the Street Outlaws : No Prep Kings scene to radial tire racing . He won every NPK race he entered . Those victories include three Future Outlaw races and one Big-Tire .
“ You get out of it what you put in , and we ’ re putting in the work ,” Buginga previously stated . “ In theory , you should be rewarded if you put in the time . But what I ’ ve learned from seven championships and 20-plus years of racing is there ’ s only one place to go from here , and that ’ s down . We just have to keep digging and make sure everything is perfect .”
What ’ s more , Buginga added a new car to his stable in 2022 . Infamously known for his “ Manny Race Red ” paint and collection of cars with names like “ Fred ,” “ Big Red ,” and “ Ed ,” he debuted “ Pro Mod Fred ” at the Yellowbullet Nationals over Labor Day weekend . The Pro Mod Camaro was a switch for Buginga , but he accepted the challenge , further proving his outlaw racing skill set .
Buginga added to his resume in 2022 by finishing second in Pro 275 and fourth in X275 in the FuelTech Radial Outlaws Series . Plus , he even notched the first-ever double-up win at DuckX Productions ’ No Mercy 13 in Pro 275 and X275 . Then Team Buginga went on to win the following weekend at the sold-out World Cup Finals : Import vs Domestic .
Lastly , Buginga capped off the year by putting three-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown in his primary Pro 275 car , a Pro- Charger-powered ‘ 03 Mustang , at the Snowbird Outlaw Nationals the first weekend in December . The weekend had a fairytale end , with Brown winning behind the wheel of “ Fred .”
Buginga is always quick to give credit where credit is due because taking on the best takes a team of people willing to stand behind you .
“ My team has done so much for me ,” Buginga stated . “ I ’ m blessed and lucky to have Jamie Miller and Franny McCarthy , plus my wife and my kids . If it weren ’ t for them , there ’ s no way this would be possible . Sixty percent of the race is won at home , and my kids get it . I could never be at the level I ’ m at if it weren ’ t for those helping me . I ’ m pretty blessed to have people pushing me to go racing .” – KAYLA ZADEL DI
PHOTO : CHRIS SEARS
NOMINEES : BUBBA STANTON / JASON LEE / MARQUES HATTON / KENNY HUBBARD
January / February 2023 DragIllustrated . com | Drag Illustrated | 103