Instead, it was James Hinchcliffe taking home the win - his first since his near fatal crash at Indianapolis.
The IndyCar season will be back in action on Sunday, April 23rd as the series heads to Barber Motor Sports Park for the Honda GP of Alabama.
The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach began with so much promise for Helio Castroneves but quickly embodied the rule of Murphy's Law in which everything that could go wrong, ultimately did.
"It's trending in the right direction, things are looking positive and there's traction", Ryan Hunter-Reay said, pointing to strong crowds at the two street races so far, plus the planning for a new auto in 2018. But if you want to pick another one to recognize, it's Long Beach.
James Hinchcliffe found his way to Victory Circle at Long Beach on Sunday.
Two years ago, six Chevrolet drivers made the final round of qualifying, an embarrassment for Honda, which is headquartered in nearby Torrance.
"I guess I remembered how to drive; and I guess this team remembered how to do it", Johnson said.
The race on the 1.97-mile, 11-turn street circuit surrounding the Long Beach Convention Center will feature the 1,000-plus horsepower cars from the 1966-74 era.
"I am thrilled. There are three races I have told my crew that you have to win - Indy, Toronto and here", explained Hinchcliffe afterward.
Early on, though, it became apparent that a lot of guys around me weren't going to save fuel like I was.
Gas prices will rise this summer
AAA said the crude oil market has largely recovered after spending almost three weeks under $50 per barrel. According to AAA, today's national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $2.39.
"Huge credit to the crew to get us fast enough".
Penske drivers have won seven of the last nine poles at Long Beach, and Saturday's run was the 48th career pole for Castroneves.
"The greatest of the greats have won here", Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver Hinchcliffe said.
Sebastien Bourdais followed his season-opening victory at St. Pete with a second-place finish to give Honda a 1-2 podium finish.
Finishing third was Josef Newgarden of Team Penske. A full-course caution on the same lap to tow in the disabled vehicle of Alexander Rossi helped Hinchcliffe save enough Sunoco E85R fuel to make it to the end and he held off Bourdais in a three-lap dash to the finish following another yellow when Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had been running second, stopped on course with an electrical issue. Plus, he enters as the Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader with 93 points, 19 ahead of Hinchcliffe.
"I think the turnaround that we as a team at Andretti have had since previous year has been pretty unbelievable, especially here", Rossi said. "I had to duck and it went real close". "It's just so nice to be back". That's why this sport can be so rewarding and so cruel, there's nothing you can do.
It set it up for Hinchcliffe to have to race Bourdais to the finish, but Bourdais was focused on the big picture in the closing laps.
The race was able to get restarted before the end of the 85-lap distance, with Hinchcliffe again checking out for the finish.
"We lost balance a little bit so I really was just trying to hang on to second place. It's, I think, our whole approach as a team". Further contact occurred between JR Hildebrand and Mikhail Aleshin in that period, Aleshin later docked a position for the contact. Andretti also won in 2002, his last full-time season in IndyCar.
The Verizon IndyCar Series hits the streets of Long Beach for the second race of the season, and 43rd time overall.