Finally Wilson took over third place on lap 59 making a gain of 21 places on his grid position, and after that was able to easily hold on to the spot four seconds ahead of Franchitti. There was no prospect of catching race leader Takuma Sato who had dominated the race, and Graham Rahal was three seconds out of Wilson's reach by the time the chequered flag came out.
Even so, third was beyond anything Wilson had been hoping for going into the 80-lap race on the the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course.
"This field is so tough, I figured that from where we started if we got in the top 12, top ten on the outside chance, that would be a great day," he admitted afterwards. "To be on the podium is fantastic ... It was just good strategy and making the most of the situation we were in after the rest of the weekend."
It's Wilson's third podium finish at Long Beach, having finished here in second place in 2006 and 2010. It's his best IndyCar result since winning at Texas last June, and he gave the credit to his team for pulling off the seemingly impossible over the course of the weekend.
"The team worked hard after the crash on Friday and then we made a lot of changes on Saturday," he said. "Obviously we had the setback on Saturday when we didn't get to qualify, but they gave great pit stops today and great strategy. It was a real team effort.
"It's great to get this result for the Boy Scouts of America and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing," he continued. "It's also good for Honda here at Long Beach to get 1-2-3-4. I think it's fantastic."
It turned out that for Wilson at least, California had been the ideal place to be handed a load of lemons on Saturday, because the lemonade it made on Sunday afternoon proved even finer vintage than the champagne that Wilson, Sato and Rahal got to spray in their exuberant celebrations.