The day before the race ended, 58 planes were still scattered at various stops along the route—and most of the waiting men had retired to the bar at The White House Inn, the official race headquarters. As near as they could tell, Marion Jayne of Palatine, Ill. had the unofficial lead. But next morning it went to veteran Gini Richardson, flying in her 20th Powder Puff Derby. Soloist Gini, who has logged 19,500 flying hours and is known to be a fearsome navigational strategist, flew low for two legs, hung back in South Dakota, and then flew high the rest of the way in her 285-hp Cessna 210J.
There were other late bulletins among the men back at the bar: "She had just achieved altitude over Denver when the throttle came apart," one husband reported to another upon returning from the telephone. "Fortunately she was still over the airport. How do you like that? I just put out $1,500 to get that crate in tip-top condition. I'd like to get her home before her prop falls off."
Next day Fran Salles came fluttering in. looking for a moment like she might taxi right into the cluster of waiting photographers and her husband. He kissed her warmly and shook his head, his eyes moist with relief.
"Honey," said Fran, while Cherie clung to her neck and drank Pepsi-Cola out of a paper cup, "I clean forgot to check my fuel gauge before leaving McCook and they only gassed one tank, so I had to go down and get some gas." Mr. Salles turned severe: "The gas gauge was on your checklist; how could you forget a thing like that?" But Fran, small, plump and blue-eyed, went on posing for pictures with Cherie.
At 5:33 p.m., with only 27 minutes to go before the Derby officially ended on the fourth day, Pilot Sammy McKay and companion Judy Wagner, the statuesque pylon racer, buzzed past the tower to be timed, then circled and settled down on the runway. It was all over now but the waiting. Lots of waiting because the race was close. And there were a few vignettes left:
One flier had settled in Little Rock a split minute or two after the sun had officially set and, suddenly a pumpkin, had been disqualified. Another was ruled out of the race when she landed on a taxi-way instead of a runway, and still another, for reasons nobody could explain, had landed at Natchez and then telephoned in to withdraw.
The evening bar conversation was filled with stories—about that ground fog in Lincoln, what to wear to the banquet, and did you hear about the incident of aerial fisticuffs in that other race? Well, said Marion Jayne (who had dropped from first to fifth place), "I would never hit my copilot. But tonight I might shave her head."
As the weekend wore on, officials admitted that all the times and things being fed into a computer might be wrong. Still no certain winner. So the impatient newspapers and TV networks—correctly, as it turned out—decided that San Diego's Marian Banks, in her 16th Derby, was second, and Jan Gammell of Denver was in third place. Then they declared Gini Richardson their winner and flashed her picture across the nation. After all, baby had come too long a way to be held up by a computer that couldn't make up its mind.