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Virginia: OPM Motorsports preview

OPM Motorsports in position for a thrilling season finale at VIR. Chuck Hemmingson sits third in SPEED World Challenge Touring driver points going into the season finale at Virginia International Raceway and is in an excellent position to put an...

OPM Motorsports in position for a thrilling season finale at VIR.

Chuck Hemmingson sits third in SPEED World Challenge Touring driver points going into the season finale at Virginia International Raceway and is in an excellent position to put an exclamation point on a season that has exceeded the expectations of OPM Motorsports.

"I am happier than anything," said Hemmingson, driver of No. 19 Mazda Protégé. "I ran Sebring before OPM bought the cars from ICY and when the team got started I was wanting to finish Top Ten in points and hoping for a Top Five. To be up to third in points and having won a race is better than my expectations. Every time we go to a race it's a lot of fun because we keep qualifying well and running well. You just never know when the next win is going to come, so it's always exciting."

The team has their sights set on being the top-ranking Mazda Protégé this year and hopes to help Mazda take home the coveted Manufacturers Championship in their second year of World Challenge Touring competition.

With first place in the drivers points already decided by the RealTime squad, a real battle will be for the four remaining positions in the top five. Kleinubing is second with 217 points, Hemmingson third at 191 points and fellow Protégé driver Paul Bonaccorsi fourth at 184 points. Keeping them on their toes will be Dobson, Kirberg and Turner in their BMWs who sit right behind them with 182, 180 and 173 points respectively. Hemmingson's position in the driver standings and his ability to produce the results that got him there has not gone unnoticed.

"Chuck has been a great asset for the OPM Motorsports team and for the entire Speed World Challenge Mazda Protégé program this season," said Steve Sanders, Manager MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development. "He is very experienced and is dedicated to his team, both as a driver and mechanic. Chuck is one of very few drivers in the Speed World Challenge series that is hands-on and constantly working to improve the Protégé's performance between sessions. Chuck's hard work is now paying off in big ways and the success he has achieved this year is truly deserved."

Mazda has a mathematical chance of winning the Manufacturers Championship, but it will definitely not be easy. With 48 points, Mazda is third, two points behind second-place Acura and another three behind BMW who leads with 53 points. Expect a hard fought battle by the Mazda drivers to work their way to the front.

"For Mazda to win we will have to pad the front of the field at the end of the race," explained Tom Fowler, driver of the No.18 Protege. "A Protege has to win the race and the rest of us Mazda drivers have got to keep the BMWs and Acuras out of the top three. Acura has to finish third or worse and BMW has to finish fourth or worse. There are a whole bunch of Mazdas running well and it is not entirely unreasonable for this to happen, but it is a long shot."

The typical throw down Touring race can be expected at VIR even though this will be the first time a lot of drivers will see the 3.27 mile, 17 turn circuit. Most of the teams have ten races under their belts and the fast guys throughout the season should find their way to the front of the grid again. OPM Motorsports drivers Tom Fowler and Chuck Hemmingson plan to be among them as they wrap up their first season together. "A third place finish in points would be a great result for myself and the team," said Hemmingson. "To bring home a manufacturers championship too would be incredible. That would be what Mazda is supporting us for in the first place and we would have done our jobs if we could do that." Based in Cumming, GA, OPM Motorsports is sponsored by The Benefit Planning Group, Mazdaspeed and Crocotile. For more information, please visit the team's website at www.opmmotorsports.com.

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About this article
Series PWC
Drivers Tom Fowler , Chuck Hemmingson , Paul Bonaccorsi