Sitting all day and still stewing about the loss of his high-powered race car, Darryl Danko watched helplessly as driver after driver took their best shots to better his first-place time.
And as it turned out, Danko won without even really trying.
Without a car to drive Sunday, Danko hung on to win his record eighth Giant Despair Hillclimb title after the Reynard that produced the winning time of 42.702 on its initial attempt Saturday was destroyed by an electrical fire just after he completed his second run of the two-day competition hours later.
“It was an expensive win,” Danko, still upset about losing his near-$200,000 Champ car, said. “It’s bitter-sweet.”
He wasn’t the only driver who got hung up on the Hill.
Larksville driver Steve Sincavage was zooming along in second place with the best chance to displace Danko for the lead when he lost control of his 2017 Chevy Corvette Z06 on Northampton Street and slammed the car into an embankment on tricky Turn 3 during his final attempt on the one-mile Laurel Run course.
“I was trying to catch his time,” said Sincavage, who wasn’t hurt in the incident. “I just lost it on a curve, slid into a dirt bank. I’m in my street car, I’m trying to catch a real race car. I was close, within a second (of Danko). I was like, ‘The last run of the day, this is it.’ It happened right at Turn 3, the car went up in the air, spun around twice. It happened fast.
“I just pushed it too hard.”
That knocked Sincavage into fourth place with a time of 43.682, behind runner-up Ray Kochin of Weatherly and third-place finisher Brian Micciche of York. George Bowland, a past Giants Despair winner, rounded out the top five. The mishap also left Sincavage with a damaged bumper and a ride he couldn’t drive home.
“It is fixable,” Sincavage said.
“It was a rough weekend for a lot of people,” Danko sighed. “The two guys at the top are both at a loss. He (Sincavage) had an incident with his race car, which turned out to be pretty bad. For everybody that did get a good weekend, the weather stayed beautiful. It was a good turnout.”
The guy who enjoyed it most may have been Ray Kochin of Weatherly, who drove his ‘80 Chevy, dubbed the General Lee, to a second-place finish in 43.032.
One of the more popular cars that regularly runs at the annual event, with a horn that blows to the tune of “Dixieland” and is painted in a color scheme similar to the one known by the same name and used by those old bootlegging boys in the 1980s hit TV show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” took Kochin to his finest Giants Despair finish.
“That is my fastest I’ve ever been here,” said Kochin said, who came within .05 of catching Danko. “I got a re-run, I had a timing glitch and that was the 43.03. But a half of a second is huge in hillclimbing. it’s the car comparison. He has a full-blown, almost-Indycar. I have an old circle track car, this is set up to do circles. His is about $200,000. This is about $5,000. But I’m making the most of it, slowly but surely.”
And yes, his car still carries the painted-on replica of the Confederate flag — on the roof instead of the hood, where it sat in the TV show — despite recent movements to remove it from prominent display in some southern states.
“At a Reading event, I put an American flag over that and I got more grief than anything,” Kochin said. “When all that (political unrest) happened, I did put an American flag on the top because I didn’t want any grief, and I got a lot of grief. When I’m here, people know. But at other events, people get a little confused. It was my favorite TV show as a kid, that’s why I did the theme.
“And of course, everybody loves the horn.”
By the time the final horn sounded at Giants Despair, Danko had his first title since 2012 and eighth overall — increasing his overall event victories to two over six-time winners John Meyer, Oscar Kovaleski and Ron Moreck, who have all long-retired from the competition. The closest active driver to Danko is John Burke, who broke Danko’s course-record time with a run of 38.024 in 2014 and won the previous five Giants Despair Hillclimbs and never finished out of the top spot before sitting out this year’s competition.
“It’s really sad, because I didn’t know the car’s potential until my first run,” Danko said of his lost Reynard Champ, which struggled with mechanical issues and made only four full runs in four years at Giants Despair. “I would have had so much improvement.”
Instead, he may have to make a deal for a new car, or bring back the Lola Special that ran a 38.36 for the previous course record in 2008.
“Yeah, we’re doing some work to it,” Danko said. “I’ll have to regroup after this, go see what we can scramble together. We might look into getting another one.
“Pretty bitter-sweet to me.”
Top 25 finishers
1. Darryl Danko`Laurel Run`Reynard`Formula S`42.702
2. Raymond Kochin`Weatherly` 80 Chevy`Special 3`43.032
3. Brian Micciche`York`93 Mazda Rx7`Street Mod Extreme`43.538
4. Stephen Sincavage`Larksville`Chevy Corvette`Super Street Prep`43.682
5. George Bowland`Easley, N.C`03 Cheetah`American Sedan R`44.002
6. Mark Aubele`E. McKeesport`97 BMW M3`Street Mod Extreme`44.112
7. Timm Murphy`Pittsburgh`00 Formula Mazda RX-8`Formula S`44.279
8. Charles King`Bethlehem, N.H`02 Chevy Pickup`Special 3`44.566
9. Jack Danko Sr.`Laurel Run`08 Radical SR3`Prototype 1`45.242
10. Mary Sincavage`Larksville`17 Chevrolet Corvette ZO6`Super Street Prep`45.304
11. Dave Cutchins`Virginia Beach, Va.`11 Stohr F-1000`Formula B`45.904
12. Bill Feist`Bear Creek Twp.`86 Chevy Corvette`Street Prep O`46.149
13. Todd Reid`Elkton, Md.`95 Honda Civic DX`Super Mod Extreme`46.380
14. Michael Robinson`Perkasie`99 Chevy Camaro`Super Mod Extreme`46.502
15. James Joseph`Pottstown`00 Chevrolet Corvette`Super Street Mod`46.504
16. Brian Halecki`Wilkes-Barre`87 Chevy Camaro`American Sedan`46.730
17. J. Kurt Eikenberg`Stewartstown`00 Prince Pr01`Special 1`46.732
18. Steve Lewis`Perkiomenville`17 Ford Mustang GT`E Street Prep`46.868
19. Mike Polakoski`Wilkes-Barre`90 Ford Mustang`American Sedan`46.970
20. George Fink`Trout Run`66 Autodynamics`Solo V`47.196
21. Jim Chernavage`Wilkes-Barre`01 Ford Mustang`GT2`47.452
22. Ron Lordy`St. Clair Shores, Mich.`08 Ford Mustang`GT 2`47.608
23. Haley Levengood`Reading`37 Ford Legend`INEX Mod`47.638
24. Christopher King`Bethlehem, N.H`13 Chevy Outlaw Lt Model`Special 3`47.961
25. Eric (Rick) Johnson`Dublin`79 Ford Mustang`Street Mod`48.068
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski