NEW YORK – America's "Idol" is ... Carrie Underwood (search)!
It came down to the country girl vs. the rock star — and the country girl from the farm took the prize.
Wednesday night, in a special two-hour finale live from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, "American Idol" (search) host Ryan Seacrest (search) announced who had won America's hearts: Underwood, the fresh-faced 22-year-old crooner from Checotah, Okla., who beat runner-up Bo Bice (search), the long-haired 29-year-old rocker from Helena, Ala.
Upon hearing that she'd won the competition, Underwood burst into tears, but got herself together to sing what's become one of her signature songs: "Inside Your Heaven," which will be released as a single next month.
"Thank you America!" Underwood shouted at the end of the song.
Asked what was going through her head as her name was called, Underwood told FOX News' Lisa Bernhard: "I tried to take it all in — I knew it was a moment I would remember forever."
Underwood, who now plans to take her family "someplace nice," said she and Bice were OK with the verdict either way.
"Either way I think it was pretty close — I think it came down to whose fans voted harder. He was very consistent ... he's always done really well. We talked about it before and we said we're set, we're fine with whatever happens."
Living up to his vow, Bice told FOX News on Thursday that he's "just as happy as pie."
"I've done weeding, dug ditches ... I've got the edge on anything I've ever expected right now. Meeting Ben Stiller, playing with Lynryd Skynyrd, meeting Daryl Hall. I'm almost embarrassed to even be standing here talking about it. I'm surprised they even know who I am — I'm honored," he said, adding that he hopes Clive Davis comes through with his promise of a record deal.
Underwood said winning "American Idol" was "the best night of my life" — and she had an estimated 29.4 million witnesses.
The preliminary audience estimate from Nielsen Media Research was up slightly from the 28.8 million who watched Fantasia Barrino take the "American Idol" crown last year.
Shortly after Underwood won Wednesday night, she was greeted by an enthusiastic and important fan: A top executive at the company that will put out her first recording.
"We can't wait to meet with you in New York," Richard Sanders, general manager of RCA Music Group, told Underwood after briefly interrupting an interview.
"This is the best night of my life. And it's going to get better," Underwood told The Associated Press.
Friends and family describe Underwood as a polite, quiet, small-town girl who is dedicated to music. Underwood's mother, Carole, said she hoped her daughter's success wouldn't change her.
But Underwood said there's no reason to worry. She plans to focus on the country sound and won't abandon her roots.
"I want my permanent address to be in Oklahoma," she said. "Someday, when I get married and I have kids, that's where I want to raise my kids."
Judge Simon Cowell (search) predicted weeks ago that Underwood would win, and also that she would outsell all the previous "Idols."
Wednesday night, judge Randy Jackson (search) joined Cowell in his prediction, saying that he too expected Underwood to win.
Wednesday night also had other treats in store. Bice sang "Sweet Home Alabama" with Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Underwood performed with country trio Rascal Flatts.
Many former "Idols" also made appearances, singing with Kenny G., George Benson, Babyface and other stars.
Celebrities including Kirstie Alley and David Hasselhoff (search) were also in attendance.
Bice also sang one of his signature songs, "Vehicle," and America got to hear Underwood sing "Angels Brought Me Here" one more time.
In the spoof, "Idol" pretended to reveal an "explosive" allegation of its own: that Cowell was having an affair with ... himself. The spoof even showed Jackson singing an angry song about Cowell, called "Dogatics," which played both on Jackson's favorite word ("dog") and the song "Paulatics" that Clark sang on the "Primetime" special.
Jackson, moreover, was wearing a shirt that said "Buy my CD!" alluding to the theory that Clark used the "Primetime" special to promote himself rather than to defend himself against "Idol," as he claimed (Clark was kicked off the show because of a previous arrest that he didn't disclose.)
Wednesday night's show also poked fun at Abdul's sometimes wild outfits, her love-hate relationship with Cowell, Cowell's "too tight tees" and Jackson's limited vocabulary.
It also featured famous highs and lows from previous shows (William Hung (search) was out and about.)
Underwood and Bice also sang their first duet together, "Up Where We Belong," and both of them were presented with new shiny red cars.
Carrie may have carried the day, but things look good for Bo, too.
As previous runner-up Clay Aiken (search) knows, coming in second on "Idol" has proven to be just as lucrative.
"Really good things happen to the top two," Underwood told FOX News earlier this week.
"American Idol" is the No. 1 series for the season in viewers (as opposed to households), averaging 27.3 million viewers per week. The finale, on the last day of the TV season, could guarantee FOX a first-ever ratings win among viewers age 18 to 49.
Five hundred million votes were cast for the "Idols" over the course of the season.
FOX News' Jennifer D'Angelo, Lisa Bernhard, the New York Post's Michael Starr and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
"American Idol" airs on FOX Network, a property of News Corp. News Corp. is the parent company of FOX News Channel, which operates FOXNews.com.