By MIKE HARRIS
AP Auto Racing Writer
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The Champ Car World Series bid goodbye to racing Sunday with a dominating victory by Will Power, one of the drivers making the transition to the newly unified IRL IndyCar Series.
Billed by promoters of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as "Champ Car's Last Stand," the race put a positive, finishing flourish to the often bitter 12-year rivalry with the IRL that nearly brought down both of America's open-wheel series.
"I love Champ Car racing," Power said. "I love the cars. I love the engine. It's great to win here in Long Beach in the last Champ Car race. It really is pretty special."
But, like just about everyone else at Long Beach, including Danica Patrick, who flew 12 hours to be here after becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race less than 24 hours earlier in Japan, Power was looking to the future.
"We're going to be in Kansas next week for an IndyCar race and I'm fifth in the points, so, yeah, I'm looking forward to what's coming," the Australian said.
But Power, who has only two previous starts on the oval tracks, like Kansas, that make up the majority of the IRL schedule, drew a laugh, adding, "I'm looking forward to the road courses and street circuits."
Patrick, looking fresh and happy after her long flight, congratulated Power and said, "The momentum of the (IndyCar) series is clear. A lot of great things have happened over the winter and it's a bright future. It's just the start of everything, but it will snowball from here."
The Long Beach race, the last event for the series that began as CART in 1979, was run with Champ Car teams, drivers and equipment, but the points awarded were for the IndyCar Series.
Power, who started third in the 20-car field, spoiled the show a bit, jumping into the lead with a great start and leading 81 of the 83 laps in the 1-hour, 45-minute timed race.
"Yeah, it was a very nice day, really good start, good pit strategy and we were very quick," Power said. "I just want to thank (my team owners and team). I feel really happy for them and the team to win the last Champ Car race."
He added, "We had problems all weekend, just little problems. But we fixed everything for the race. My engineer did a great job, the car was nice and it all came together in the race. I was just cool in the car, relaxed. When it comes together, it just comes together nicely."
Power, who finished fourth in last year's Champ Car series for Walker Racing, earned his third career victory, this one with the KV Racing Technology team, one of several Champ Car teams that are making the transition to the IRL.
In fact, Power and eight other transitional drivers, have already raced twice in the IndyCar Series, but moved back into their old equipment for one last event when the IRL could not get officials in Japan to move their race.
Twelve of the drivers in Sunday's race do not currently have rides in the IRL, but two of them, former Formula One driver Franck Montagny, in his first Champ Car start, and longtime Champ Car star Mario Dominguez finished second and third.
Dominguez, who has two Champ Car victories in his resume, said the final race was bittersweet.
"In the end, the best thing for open-wheel racing in the United States was to get together, to be united," the Mexican driver said. "The future is very bright, I think. There has to be only one series. That was proven before.
"Even though I'm very, very sad that Champ Car is ending, at the same I'm happy because I'm sure in the end the fans are going to be the winners when they're going to be watching one IndyCar race all the time, with all the starts, with all the great teams."
Rookie Enrique Bernoldi and Oriol Servia, both transitional drivers, finished fourth and fifth.
Graham Rahal, the 19-year-old son of longtime racing star Bobby Rahal, who became the youngest driver ever to win a major open-wheel race two weeks ago in the IRL event in St. Petersburg, Fla., spun twice and finished 13th on Sunday.
The youngster had moved back up to seventh when he spun trying to pass Franck Perera, another transitional driver, for position on the last lap.
Justin Wilson, the driver who replaced Sebastien Bourdais, who won the last three Long Beach races for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, started from the pole but lost the lead to Power moments after the green flag and wound up completing only 12 laps before going out with a mechanical problem.
Former CART champions Jimmy Vasser, who came out of a two-year retirement to drive here, and Paul Tracy, who didn't have a ride until earlier this week, finished on the lead lap in 10th and 11th.