TALLADEGA, Ala. – Mike Wallace planned to spend this weekend on some exotic island with his wife Carla, celebrating their 32nd wedding anniversary. And though their plans changed, they still were basking in paradise Saturday afternoon. At a lovely little locale called Victory Lane.
Wallace used a consistently strong push from KHI Racing teammate Ron Hornaday to lead 54 of 94 laps and win the Coca-Cola 250 Powered By fred’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
“My wife has been saying for years that we never go anywhere on our anniversary,” Wallace said. “This is the exotic paradise island; the infield at Talladega. Here is your exotic weekend, honey.”
It is the first NASCAR victory for the 52-year-old Wallace since 2004, and it came in a race that he originally had no plans of attending. Wallace received a call from team owner Kevin Harvick less than a week before the race asking him if he would like to replace regular driver Elliott Sadler, whose wife is about to give birth.
Wallace eagerly accepted, and six days later he was enjoying one of the most emotional moments of his racing career.
“I’ve been trying to keep from crying ever since I got out of the truck,” Wallace said. “Because a lot of people doubt you. They doubt your ability. An opportunity like this just proves that I can get it done.
“This is so big for somebody who kind of struggles in their career. This isn’t just a regular win. This is a big stage. This is Talladega. It means a lot. It’s very emotional, very rewarding.”
Harvick and Hornaday both joined Wallace for the Victory Lane celebration and were just as thrilled about his triumph.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever had as much fun in Victory Lane,” Harvick said. “To see the emotion and excitement from Mike, that is one of the most rewarding things you can ever ask for as a person. It was a lot of fun.”
Hornaday, who is in contention for the Camping World Truck Series championship, led one lap early in order to pick up a bonus point. He spent most of the rest of the race drafting close behind Wallace, and the duo proved to be too powerful for the rest of the field, though there were a total of 24 lead changes among nine drivers.
“What a veteran Mike Wallace is,” Hornaday said. “I had him sideways, I had him down in the infield. He gathered it up every time. Unbelievable.
“That was a lot of fun. That was the most hectic fun I’ve ever had at Talladega. It was pretty cool.”
Pole-sitter James Buescher finished third, followed by Ricky Carmichael in fourth, Jason White fifth, Todd Bodine sixth, points leader Austin Dillon seventh, Brendan Gaughan eighth, Kyle Busch ninth and Max Papis 10th.
Dillon’s lead in the standings is down to three points over Buescher. Johnny Sauter is 14 points back and Hornaday trails by 16 points with three races remaining.
For one day, however, Wallace was ahead of them all. Paradise had been found.
“You have no idea how much this means to me,” Wallace said. “I don’t know if there will be another one. I don’t win as frequently as I’d like to. I know I’m not a superstar in NASCAR. I wasn’t even going to be here.
“So to get this opportunity and then to be able to win, it means a lot. This is so monumental for me. We’re going to savor it.”
Race fans that want to experience true southern hospitality combined with the most competitive racing in NASCAR should call the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office today at 1-877-Go2-DEGA. Tickets are available online at http://www.talladegasuperspeedway.com www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.