You thought he might outrun it, as the summer spun away and he kept finding the fast line around that slick asphalt. But it turned out to be a trick of the light, Al Cook Jr.'s last season, or perhaps a final mirage created out of nothing but the sheer will of a racer's racer.
Cook, who three months ago came within four points of a season title in late models at Baer Field Speedway despite battling stomach cancer, died this morning. He was 54 years old.
Just about every one of those years was spent in and around the blare and smoke-dimmed lights of area racetracks, as a member of an iconic racing family.
A two-time track champion at Baer Field, Cook was the oldest of four racing brothers and the son of Al Sr., whom he would follow into the Baer Field Speedway Hall of Fame. He started his career at Avilla and moved on from there, winning on dirt and pavement short tracks all over the area.
In his last season, Cook led the late model points for a majority of the season before John Gatton Jr. finally caught him.
Over the summer, he won races at both Baer Field and Angola Motor Speedway; the last race he ran was at Winchester Speedway less than two months ago, on October 12.
May the man rest in peace. Or, even better, race on forever.