This year, with the team line-up of Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti gelling from the start, Hunter-Reay's season began with road course podium finishes at St Petersburg and Sao Paulo, and then a blazing mid-season streak of three consecutive race wins at Milwaukee, Iowa and Toronto.
Despite those victories, poor outings at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma had appeared to have put an end to his hopes of making a run at the championship, until he pulled off his second road course win of the year at Baltimore two weeks ago to set up a season finale title decider at Fontana this weekend.
Michael Andretti emphasised the importance of the team dynamic and the close partnership between his three drivers in particular.
"[Ryan] is the ultimate team player and I know we can count on him, along with his teammates, to continue to be a foundation for us," said Andretti. "We believe that he, Marco and James will continue to work together and take the team to great places with great success."
"Hinchcliffe coming here just moulded the team back together with his lively spirit and everything like that," added Andretti Autosport general manager Kyle Moyer. "It's really made it fun.
"The climate within the Andretti team in 2010 and 2011 was plain to see during a walk down pit lane, and it wasn't one that looked happy or inviting," Moyer told US cable channel SPEED
. "That same stroll through the Andretti pits today is a much different experience: you'll find a lot more smiles, laughs and the general weight that stifled the team is nowhere to be found."
Moyer compared the 2012 line-up to the famous "brotherhood" that formed almost a decade ago when Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta and Dan Wheldon were all at the team.
Andretti Autosport clearly believes Hunter-Reay is a vital part of recreating that chemistry and former success, and has no intention of breaking up the band any time soon. This weekend, they've put their money on the table and signed the deal - leaving Roger Penske with some interesting off-season thinking to do about his own line-up at Team Penske.
How that goes will likely depend on whether Penske or Andretti end up going into 2013 with the reigning champion on their books: Will Power, or Ryan Hunter Reay?