Wesley Lape is crew chief Matt Puccia's trusted tire expert on the road and a real jack-of-all-trades back at the shop.
"When I'm not doing tires and tire reports, I try to be around the car as much as I can," said Lape, who does double-duty as a tire specialist and fabricator on the No. 16 Ford Fusion. "At the shop, I do a little of everything, whatever is needed."
Lape, 28, grew up in Redding, Pa., building and racing dirt modifieds with his buddies around the Northeast. Just two weeks shy of his 21st birthday, Lape relocated to North Carolina and began working for an ARCA team as a fabricator. Seven short months later, he was hired by Roush Fenway Racing to work in its fab shop.
Now in his seventh year at Roush Fenway, Lape is in charge of main fabrication and welding projects, including building front glass, rear and side windows, crush panels, quarter windows, and cowls for the No.16.
He's no stranger to working with all things automotive and says his sponsor's line of putty and body filler is a must-have in shop prep.
"We use Bondo Filler on every single race car," Lape said. "We use it to clean up welds and make sure the race cars look nice and smooth and aerodynamic."
When Lape's driver Greg Biffle makes his 20th start at Bristol Motor Speedway this month, his No. 16 will sport a special Bondo-branded paint scheme -- quite appropriate for a product that just might come in handy for a lot of teams in the garage.
"Racing at Bristol can mean a lot of dents, so body filler is a great solution," Biffle said. "If I brush the wall in practice, we can repair the damage quickly without having to replace the body panel."
It's no secret Biffle and the NASCAR circuit will return to a different Bristol than the one they saw in March. They'll race on a revamped surface, the result of a milling process which erased the progressive banking in the upper groove.
Losing the upper groove will likely funnel drivers to the bottom two grooves where contact will be inevitable, meaning 500 grueling laps around The World's Fastest Half-Mile could be the busiest yet for Cup teams and tackling dent repair.
"I don't think anybody knows what's going to happen," Biffle said. "I think everybody is kind of nervous and excited about seeing what the change did to the track and how we can get our cars to work running lower on the race track and figure out how to pass."
One thing team members like Lape know for sure -- they'll be armed and ready for any scraps and dings with gallons and gallons of putty and body filler.
An estimated 215 gallons of putty and body filler will be used by Sprint Cup Series teams Bristol race weekend. On average, each team consumes 126 gallons of the product each year, totaling more than 5,418 gallons of the body filler used for repairing dents and ensuring panels fit NASCAR templates.
The body filler could be a lifesaver for teams, especially if old-school Bristol bump-and-run racing is the ticket that weekend.
"If our sheet metal gets bent and doesn't quite fit the templates, we can use body filler to fill out the area," Lape said. "It's like duct tape, it's a good thing to have on hand. We can put it anywhere to fill a crack."