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Hunter-Reay’s success has surprised Penske team

When Penske Racing considered championship favorites this year, Ryan Hunter-Reay did not make the list.

It wasn’t a slight: Hunter-Reay has never won a title at a top level and had never finished higher than seventh in the IndyCar standings.

“I am surprised that it’s come down to us because while he’s certainly capable, he typically hasn’t been in the championship mix,” Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said. “But this year, he’s managed the opportunity really well.”

Well enough to keep Penske driver Will Power from clinching the IRL championship last Sunday at Baltimore.

Hunter-Reay went into the event with his championship chances dwindling, and pulled off a win that kept him in the title race. He heads into Saturday’s season finale trailing Power by 17 points.

“We are still going to need to have a really good race, and we are going to need (Power) to have just an average race,” team owner Michael Andretti said.

Hunter-Reay has proven this year, his fifth full season in IndyCar, that he is capable of running exceptional races. He has won a career-high four races this season and used three consecutive victories this summer to establish himself as a title contender. His 153 laps led is a career high, as are his six podium finishes.