Lead Photo by Jason Reiss
If you’ve followed the latest happenings NMRA VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw then you are quite familiar with “Big Red,” a 2003 Mustang Cobra that is sponsored by MJM Construction and campaigned by Manny Buginga. He captured the title in 2017, his second championship with the first one coming back in 2005. The turbocharged Mustang is fast, like high 4.20s quick in old Street Outlaw rules. Complimenting Big Red for the past two years has been a supercharged coupe that ran even quicker than Buginga’s beloved turbo ride.
The two-car team ended, however, at the conclusion of the season when Alton Clements purchased the coupe and Buginga was going to focus only on Big Red for 2019. But if you know Buginga, then you know he isn’t one to sit still or change his mind. New for Team Buginga in 2019 is a second Mustang and an unnamed Pro Mod driver will slide in behind the wheel as he is looking to get into the small-tire game. The NMRA and NMCA schedules just so happen to fit into the mystery driver’s big tire dance card.
Buginga went all out with the new ride, which will be X275 legal and eligible to run in the Elite 16, the $50,000-to-win race put on by Duck X Productions. It is another Fox-body Mustang and this one is painted to look like Buginga’s former championship winning coupe in a red, white, and blue paint scheme. And while the previous coupe was powered by a ProCharger-enhanced DiSomma Racing Engines 432ci small-block Ford, the new car will have an identical powerplant to Big Red so they can collect twice the data on each run.
“I am looking forward to getting the coupe on track and the new car is being upgraded right now at JW Race Fabrication with a lot of input from my crew chief Jamie Miller,” explained Buginga as he spilled the details of his two-car team for 2019. First on the list is the addition of a Merillat Racing rear-housing that has special geometry and other tricks incorporated into the chromoly fab 9.
Though a relatively new name to the booming Outlaw/Mustang market, Merillat Racing is comprised of Marty and Shannon Merrillat and Issac Thourot. They have been building rear housings, various suspension components, and complete cars from their Ohio-based chassis shop for a few years and are becoming more popular as people take notice of their high-level of work.
Both cars will feature identical powerplants from DiSomma Racing Engines, the engine shop that Buginga has relied on for the past several seasons. DiSomma is no stranger to small-block Ford power and their work has powered three of the last four NMRA/NMCA Street Outlaw champions along with the quickest pass in X275 history.
“DiSomma is awesome, his small-block Ford program is the best around and this new engine will be really fast,” commented Buginga. Both bullets are based on a Dart CGI 9.5-inch deck block and use billet cylinder heads that were designed by DiSomma. A Visner Engine Development billet intake manifold rests on top of it.
A new Garrett GTX 85mm turbocharger will provide the boost and Buginga has decided to keep the engine running on gasoline, though he wouldn’t comment on why he didn’t move to M1 like many other racers.
As for Big Red, the only other change was to swap turbochargers from the old 98mm unit to the X275/Street Outlaw legal 85mm unit. Though Buginga plans on testing the 88mm version of the Garrett turbo if time allows. The engine combinations between the cars are identical so the team can swap powerplants back and forth if the need arises. Both cars will continue to employ FuelTech FT600 engine management systems and Jamie Miller and Josh Ledford will oversee the tuning and power management programs.
Testing is due to begin shortly after the New Year but Buginga said he would keep the results under wraps until qualifying begins February 28-March 3 for the Nitto Tire Spring Break Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park.