Ed Carpenter Racing's decision to hire Mike Conway for IndyCar's road and street rounds was rewarded as the Briton survived an extraordinary race to claim his second Long Beach win.
Conway only took the lead when an out-of-sequence Scott Dixon abandoned his attempt to run to the flag on fumes, and then kept Will Power at bay for the final two laps to secure the win.
Rookie Carlos Munoz claimed an excellent third ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, all of whom were worthy of stories in their own right.
But the afternoon appeared destined for a very different outcome before an extraordinary incident on lap 56; one triggered by a bit of impatience on the part of 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The Andretti driver had been leading during the middle phase of the race, but was wary of a mounting threat being posed by Power, who was climbing through the field after starting 14th.
Hunter-Reay was able to beat Power out of the pits, but a new challenge immediately emerged when Josef Newgarden, who had been running third, pitted a lap later and popped out in the lead ahead of both.
Hunter-Reay tried to capitalise on Newgarden's cold tyres with an ill-conceived lunge at Turn 4, only to clatter into the Sarah Fisher Hartmann car and bounce off the wall.
His team-mate James Hinchcliffe had nowhere to go but into the wreckage, triggering a chain reaction that also accounted for Jack Hawksworth, Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato.
Hinchcliffe's pain at having his race ended by his team-mate was exacerbated by a sprain to his right thumb.
Power, Conway, Munoz and Montoya were among those who managed to weave through the chaos. Helio Castroneves was also able to make it through, but not before being whacked by Hunter-Reay's car as it bounced across the track.
The pile-up was the most significant moment in a race loaded with incidents. Pagenaud could have finished higher had he not been hit by Power mid-race, while Sebastien Bourdais also featured among the frontrunners early on before two trips into the wall put him out of contention.
Had the race gone another lap or two under yellows, there was also the chance that Dixon could have held on to take the win.
The Kiwi had gone off strategy early on in an effort to compensate for his poor grid position, but eventually elected to make a late stop rather than risk causing an accident by running out of fuel in front of the pack.
His race was also not without incident: Justin Wilson was running behind him in second on a similar strategy, but the Brit ended up in the wall when the pair accidentally made contact on a late restart.
Results - 80 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Engine Time/Gap
1. Mike Conway Carpenter/Chevy 1h54m41.6418s
2. Will Power Penske/Chevy +0.9005s
3. Carlos Munoz Andretti/Honda +1.5591s
4. Juan Pablo Montoya Penske/Chevy +2.0226s
5. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt/Honda +2.8169s
6. Mikhail Aleshin Schmidt/Honda +3.8574s
7. Oriol Servia Rahal/Honda +4.9621s
8. Marco Andretti Andretti/Honda +8.1948s
9. Sebastian Saavedra KV/Chevy +8.9029s
10. Carlos Huertas Coyne/Honda +24.2295s
11. Helio Castroneves Penske/Chevy +30.0552s
12. Scott Dixon Ganassi/Chevy +30.7310s
13. Graham Rahal Rahal/Honda +1 lap
14. Sebastien Bourdais KV/Chevy +3 laps
15. Jack Hawksworth Herta/Honda +3 laps
Justin Wilson Coyne/Honda 64 laps
Ryan Briscoe Ganassi/Chevy 60 laps*
Tony Kanaan Ganassi/Chevy 55 laps
Josef Newgarden Fisher/Honda 55 laps
Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti/Honda 55 laps
James Hinchcliffe Andretti/Honda 55 laps
Takuma Sato Foyt/Honda 55 laps
Charlie Kimball Ganassi/Chevy 41 laps
* Running again at finish