Pro Modified racers Kris Thorne and Manny Buginga engaged in what was arguably the highlight of the entire 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals during eliminations on Saturday evening. Thorne, the reigning series champion, and Buginga, making his first career NHRA Pro Mod start, qualified No. 3 and 14, respectively, setting up what was, to those in-the-know on Buginga’s career accolades, an absolutely titanic matchup between two world-class teams.
Thorne, the dominant racer in the class a season ago, is known for his preference to stage last, and Buginga, himself a hard-nosed racer, was clearly in the mood to play games. After he and Thorne rolled and lit the pre-stage bulb, the two ProCharger-boosted Camaros sat there…and sat there…and……sat there. Seconds turned into minutes, and the crowd got all into the situation. The whole ordeal was made possible perhaps by the fact that the Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying program had concluded for the night, meaning the chief starter wasn’t under any particular pressure to move the two drivers along to adhere to a schedule. And so the show went on.
After nearly two minutes on the dot elapsed, Buginga finally rolled in, quickly followed by Thorne, and off they went. Thorne got away first, .018 to .043, and never looked back, sailing to a 5.764 to 5.862 victory.
On Tuesday night, Buginga was a guest on the Shake And Bake Show podcast with Steve Jackson, Lyle Barnett, and Courtney Enders, and was adamant that it was only a brake pressure issue that caused his car to roll forward, and that he had no intent to actually go in before Thorne anytime prior to both cars burning themselves up and running out of fuel. With that, Jackson was inspired to begin a fund that quickly rose to more than $2,500 to the first driver that could successfully force Thorne to stage first this season. And while it may take some melted parts to do it, someone in the class is going to earn a few dollars for their efforts to prove a point. But really, we the viewers are the winners in all this, out of the pure entertainment value of it all.
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