LAUREL RUN - One moment, Darryl Danko was helping workers break down the finish area. The next, he was carrying equipment.
It seemed the course’s career victory leader was everywhere on opening day of the Giants Despair Hill Club except where fans expected him to be.
He never even attempted to take a car up the hill.
“I took a year off to try and reorganize,” Danko said.
Without the seven-time Giants Despair champion in the field, Danko’s old rival George Bowland of North Carolina ran away with the lead, gunning his 2002 BBR Shark up the steep, windy one-mile stertch of Northampton Street in 41.278 seconds.
“I had to give the old man a chance,” Danko cracked. “Me and him are good friends. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well. He pushes me to drive a lot harder than I normally would.”
Bowland’s time was a far cry from Danko’s all-time course record of 38.36 seconds, but ranks two full seconds faster than the time of 43.278 runnerup John Burke of Rumson, N.J. put up while running in a 1997 Reynard Champ Car. Jenkintown resident John Hartnett has the third-best time of 43.611 heading into today’s final action of the weekend.
Instead of trying to top them all, Danko took a back seat this time.
“We’ve been building a new car,” Danko said. “And we just haven’t gotten the motor block yet.
The Laurel Run resident said he expected to have the new car built in time to run on his home course this weekend, but the engine got held up in Colorado.
“Some things are out of your control,” Danko shrugged.
So he threw all his energy this weekend into his other role with the event, serving as its co-chairman along with his father, Jack Danko Sr.
“I’m just kind of disappointed he didn’t run,” the elder Danko said of Darryl. “That was his choice. He felt like his big car wasn’t ready.”
Jack Danko said Darryl Danko’s second racecar - the Lola Indycar - could have been an option for this weekend’s Hill Climb, but “We’ve had problems with it - electrical problems.”
And that left Darryl Danko in the backround of a race he’s more accustomed to leading.
“I didn’t think it would bother me as much as it does,” Darrly Danko said. “It’s nice to have a little break now and then, but I miss it. Obvioulsy, this event is just so strefful and time-consuming, it’s just hard to get in and clear my mind when I’m driving.
“But this little break really revitalized my desire to break this record.”
In his absence, his father and brother, Jack Danko Jr., did their best to uphold the family name at Giants Despair.
Driving his colorful blue and white Radical, Jack Danko Sr. hit the gas and roared to the lead in the two-car C Sports Racer division. He posted a top time of 44.372, edging the 44.844 accomplished by Bryan Fritzler of Newark, Del.
“I’m having a blast,” said Danko Sr., also the Giants Despair organizer as well as its co-chairman. “I love this.
“It ranks right up with Christmas.”
Jack Danko Jr. also has a chance to take home a present, as his time of 45.793 in a Van Dieman sits just behind leader Bill Feist’s 44.637 on the leaderboard of the Formula Continental division.
“It feels good,” Jack Jr. said. “I’m picking up time every run. I’m only off by a couple-hundredths of a second.”
Hundreds of fans lined the sides of the roadway to watch a field of 80 entrants compete in 39 different classifications - a dramatic increase in driver’s from last year’s field of 59. The second and final day of action begins at 9 a.m. today.
“A lot of drivers, they like the history of the Giant,” Jack Danko Sr. said.