Wallace was pushed to the win by Ron Hornaday Jr. as the trucks finally figured out the two-car tandem draft that drivers have used this season in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Daytona and Talladega, the two fastest tracks.
Wallace was making just his second start of the season. He was called by Kevin Harvick Inc. last week when Sadler pulled out of the race to stay home with his wife as they await the birth of their second child. Wallace said the plan to work with Hornaday for the entire race was hatched immediately after he accepted the ride.
"Right here, this is an incredibly unselfish individual because he could have worked for the win," Wallace said as he hugged Hornaday in Victory Lane. "Thank God Elliott Sadler's wife is going to have a baby and gave me this opportunity."
Wallace now has five career wins in the Truck Series, but hasn't run a full season since 2000, the same year he won his last race in the series. His last win in any NASCAR race was in 2004 in the Nationwide Series.
Running this weekend meant Wallace had to bring his wife to Talladega on what was supposed to be a celebration of their 32nd wedding anniversary. Team owner Harvick joked after the win that Wallace could borrow his golf cart and take his wife into the infamous Talladega infield to celebrate.
"It's been so long since I won a race, and nobody knows how much this means to me," Wallace said. "It was our anniversary on Thursday, and this is the exotic paradise island -- the infield at Talladega."
Wallace led eight times for a race-high 54 laps, but needed every bit of help from Hornaday, who finished second. James Buescher finished third and sliced his deficit in the championship race to three points behind Austin Dillon.
Dillon worked with Busch most of the race, and seemed poised to make a run at Wallace in the closing laps. But a caution slowed the action, racing resumed with seven laps to go but the yellow flag came right back out for debris. Dillon was then flagged for failing to maintain reasonable speed, and had to drop back to 17th on the restart that came with two laps remaining.