BOONE, Iowa — Adam Gates thought he was running for second.
What he was running for turned out to be an IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals fueled by Casey’s championship.
Gates was a distant third when leader Nate Coopman’s engine expired with five circuits left in Tuesday’s 25-lap Sport Compact main event at Boone Speedway.
He passed Austen Becerra for the lead the next time around and negotiated traffic the rest of the way before unknowingly taking the victory.
“I didn’t know I’d won until I pulled into the infield,” Gates admitted after the $320 win. “We got into lapped traffic and Nate got four or five cars ahead of us. I thought we were racing for second.”
Becerra ended as the runner-up while Drew Johnson was third. Jay DeVries and Joshua Barnes completed the top five.
Becerra started sixth and had the fastest car early on, leading when the only caution of the contest came out on lap five. Gates cracked the top five on the next circuit, before Coopman edged Becerra at the line for the front spot on lap 11.
He stretched that advantage to a full car length when the 12th lap was scored and to three car lengths when lap 13 went into the books.
Coopman was mastering traffic and threatened to run away with the race before his run of bad luck at Super Nationals continued and he slowly rolled to a stop on the infield.
No stranger to misfortune at Boone himself — he broke on the third lap at Super Nationals last year — Gates kept an eye on his oil pressure as the last laps counted down.
“I had zero oil pressure. A couple more laps and we might have had to park it, but the lapped traffic did a good job holding their line,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of big wins this year but this is the biggest.”
Fifty-nine Sport Compacts vied in the division’s fourth Super Nationals appearance. Eight states were represented in the main event.
Adam Gates, Austen Becerra, Drew Johnson, Jay DeVries, Joshua Barnes, Nathan Chandler, Ramsey Meyer, Luke Benischek, Kimberly Abbott, Mitch Bolton, Brannon Bechen, Tyler Thompson, Michael Grossman, Trent Orwig, Cody Thompson, Scott Johnson, Alec Stapleton, Danny Sassman Jr., Jake Benischek, Mick Rykhus, Brooke Fluckinger, Kaytee DeVries, Ryan BryantNate Coopman, A.J. Myott, Alex Davis, Brandon Lambert, John Gill, Dallas Chandler, Aaron Miller.