Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rutledge Wood: From Craigslist to Top Gear

We all know Rutledge Wood, the larger than life personality that we see each week on NASCAR RaceDay on SPEED and who is now also the host of "Top Gear" on the History Channel, but do we really "know" Rutledge?

Wood, at Texas Motor Speedway Fandango event
Credit: Debbie Ross
AE: How did you find your way into NASCAR?

RW: I started with SPEED in February of '05 as the MC and DJ at the SPEED stage. It was a position through the marketing department and believe it or not, I actually saw the job listing on Craigslist. When I started, I didn't know much about NASCAR but I fell in love with it quickly. It's hard to believe I've been on the road with NASCAR that long, but it has flown by.

AE: Through your work with the SPEED Channel, you have had many adventures: What is your favorite thing that you have been able to do because of NASCAR and SPEED?

RW: Wow ... that's a tough question. Honestly the coolest thing has been becoming friends with Kyle Petty and being able to help the Victory Junction Gang Camp. What Kyle does for children all over this country is truly remarkable. Going on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, which raises money for camp by putting on an 80 mph cross country motorcycle parade, is probably the most special thing I've done. To see people in small towns all over this country holding signs up in support of children and Adam Petty's dream was amazing.

AE: For more information on Victory Junction Gang Camp, visit Victory Junction and for details on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride please visit Kyle Petty Charity Ride.

Do you have a favorite interview that you've done for Speed? One that pops into my head is you interviewing Greg Biffle when he was at the dentist! -Rebecca Kivak

RW: That one was really fun. Greg is one of my favorite guys in this sport and we always have fun together. I think one of my favorite pieces we did was a few years ago at Texas Motor Speedway on Halloween night, I dressed up as some of the drivers and then knocked on their doors dressed as them. Tony Stewart spent half an hour with me just hanging out and laughing with me as I ran around like a total goober. When we get to see these guys as the regular guys they truly are, I think it makes everything click.

Also from Rebecca, It always looks like you, Wendy Venturini, John Roberts, Kyle Petty, Kenny Wallace, etc. are having a great time working together onscreen. Are you close offscreen as well?

RW: We really are ... SPEED is really one big family. I think what makes SPEED so fun is that people at home feel like they know us and are watching old friends. We all spend a lot of time together at the race track, so we really are all friends.

Rutledge recently starting hosting a show on the History Channel called "Top Gear." It is a spin off to the popular UK version of the same show. Wood along with co-hosts Adam Ferrera and Tanner Foust put today's cars to the test and interview celebrities.

"Top Gear" isn't a stuffy car show; in fact, some criticize the show for not focusing more on newer cars. Each week the team of hosts introduce a new vehicle and give it a spin around their test track. Depending on which host is doing the showcase piece the content varies, though it usually includes the host going for a drive and putting the vehicle through its paces (speed, braking, drifting). After pointing out the good, bad and ugly of the showcase vehicle, they turn it over to The Stig. The Stig is a masked professional driver who takes the car around the "Top Gear" test track to see where it ranks in terms of lap speed.

Another segment on "Top Gear" is called “Big Star in A Small Car.” In this segment, one of the hosts conducts a short interview with an actor, musician or other celebrity. The segment concludes with the “big star” turning a lap on the test track in an economy car.

Top Gear Promo featuring Rutledge Wood
Credit: History.com
AE: "Top Gear" is a great show, how did you find that job?

RW: Believe it or not ... I just got a call about it one day. A nice woman from New York asked if I'd be willing to talk to a producer from the BBC about a show they were producing. It turned out to be "Top Gear" and I still can't believe I get to drive some of the cars I do. It's truly a dream come true.

"Top Gear" was renewed for a second season. What/if anything can you tell your fans to make them look forward to tuning in?

RW: Well, first off, a big thanks to everyone that watched the first season. We couldn't get to do another one if so many people hadn't tuned in. I can't say much, but what I can say is that it's going to be insane. The ideas we've come up with and things we want to try are really fun and over the top crazy. I hope we get to do it for years to come.

AE: How do you manage both "Top Gear" and SPEED/NASCAR jobs with being a father of two and a husband?

RW: It's really tough to be honest. Obviously the schedule for NASCAR alone is intense. The longest season in sports ... I'm not sure why I couldn't have fallen in love with the NFL or NBA, but they aren't anywhere near as much fun as NASCAR. Anywho, I shoot a lot of "Top Gear" stuff during the week, so I'm trying to bring my wife and daughters with me to more race weekends, which hopefully will really help. I love what I do, but nothing is more important to me than my family, so I always try to put them first, and when I'm home, I just try to be husband, dad, and friend.

AE: Can you tell me a little bit about your family? (You can see Rutledge and his family starring in the new gorving.com commercial, currently airing)

RW: My wife and I went to high school together, and then college too. We've got two little girls. One 2 1/2 years old, and one 6 months old. My wife is truly amazing ...

Rutledge is active on Twitter, @RutledgeWood and also on Facebook and actually replies to his fans and followers. This question also came from Rebecca- You are active on Twitter and Facebook, as are a lot of NASCAR personalities. Do you see social media as a way to bring the NASCAR community closer together?

RW:  I think it's really cool that we get to look inside some of these people's lives and tag along. I joined Twitter because I heard Shaq was really funny on there, and so was Rob Dyrdek (professional skateboarder). I think any time you can see someone's personality come out, it brings you closer to them.

AE: I obviously follow you on Twitter and Facebook and know you collect cars. What car is your favorite that you own? And what is your dream car to own?

RW: Another tough one! My favorite I own right now is probably my 1970 Datsun 521 truck. We'd call it a "Rat Rod" because it's built as a fun, cheap beater, with a flat black spray paint job, whitewalls, and it's lowered. Of all the cars I've ever owned, more people stop and talk to me about this one.
The "Rat Rod"
Courtesy of Rutledge's facebook
This interview really gave me the opportunity to learn more about the man behind the goofiness we sometimes see on SPEED. Rutledge started out by answering an ad and look at him now, rubbing elbows with the stars of NASCAR and celebrities alike. Dream big ... maybe it can happen to you, yes you reading this right now!

4 comments :

No, don't "dream big," that's nonsense: Such dumb luck is as likely as winning the lottery.

We have on TV enough boring, waste-of-time reality shows filled with self-centered, self-promoting airheads.

It's Called Entertainment & No, Reality TV isn't true reality, it's still TV! Get a clue/life and lighten up! Mr. Wood, you're funny and keep it up; but don't try too hard! Peace

zzzzz.....zzzzz..... I change the channel!

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