The gregarious Senoia, Ga., resident and co-host of Top Gear America has lived and breathed cars since childhood, when he spent many an afternoon tinkering with cars under the tutelage of his old man, a fellow auto junkie. After graduating with a marketing degree from UGA (funded largely by flipping cars) and landing stints at a radio station and hosting karaoke, Wood scored entry into a TV career through a Craigslist ad (say what?). Three weeks later, Wood was en route to the Daytona 500 on SPEED channel’s marketing team.
After a year “busting it” behind the scenes, his boss gave him a shot in front of the camera. It turned out that this longtime TV buff (and SNL devotee) was a natural. Then, in 2009, Wood got a phone call from a woman looking to book hosts for Top Gear America. Apparently, a British producer had seen a video of him that a NASCAR fan had uploaded illegally to YouTube. “By some miracle, I got the job!” he exclaims. “Now, here we are readying for season four.”
On Top Gear, which kicks off again on the History Channel this fall, 33-year-old Wood serves as the personable complement to fellow co-hosts Tanner Foust (the even-keeled pro driver) and Adam Ferrara (a comedian with a penchant for wrecking cars). Living out a “13-year-old boy’s fantasy” over the last four years, he’s driven 181 mph in a Lamborghini, floated a Chevy Astro across a lake and raced a supercar across the country—and that’s just the beginning.
In between TV gigs on Top Gear, Trackside and NASCAR Race Day, this husband and father of two is also the co-owner of locally based Volatile. The T-shirt company sells an edgy line of racing-inspired tees, hats and stickers, including a few emblazoned with a distinct ATL logo. “I am so proud of being from and living in Atlanta,” he says. This fall, look out for their roaming pop-up shop dubbed Rutspeed (built by Wood himself) slinging wares at local Atlanta festivals. Until then, keep on truckin’. @rutledgewood