09th Jan2015

Living The Dream

by Michael Chandler

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How do you measure success?  Are you successful if you have millions of dollars, property across the globe, dozens of cars, a few boats and access to a private plane?  Is it having a family, working a 9-5, 3 kids, a dog and a modest house?  Is it finishing that dream build you’ve been wanting to do since you were old enough to know whats what?  What if it’s none of those, but a combination of them?  People say that I’m living the dream because I cover races, take pictures of cars, and occasionally travel to do so.  I don’t say that I am.  If anyone I know is living the dream, it’s Jason Smith.  His job is to teach people how to drive fast in the desert, and race across it himself.  He has his drift project BMW and daily drives a very nice Ford Raptor.  He has a nice house in the suburbs of Las Vegas, where he lives with his lovely wife, three awesome children and two dogs.  That’s the dream, but it hasn’t always been.

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I first met Jason way back in 2010, right after CAM was founded.  I was going to cover the NASA Nationals, specifically the Honda Challenge races because the only locals I knew were running in that.  And I barely knew them.  I was going to interview the three of them, but before meeting face to face I sent them some basic questions.  I figured we would chat when we met and I would have more.  Jason was the only one to respond to the email questions.  At the interview he told me he wouldn’t be running in Honda Challenge, nor would he be there most of the weekend because of his job at Discount Tire.  But he had set up the other two cars for success (which was undone by an out of town “expert”).  That told me he was a good dude, and he would only cement that the longer we knew each other.

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We would run into each other at the track, we added each other on Facebook, and one day I had a problem.  The tires on my Subaru were toast.  I needed new ones, but I didn’t really want to deal with the local tire dealers.  Then Jason piped up.  He said that if I bought a set online that he would mount them for me.  All I would have to do is drive to his shop, Innovative Garage, in Orem.  So I did just that.  I was ready to pay him for his services, but he said it was all good.  He owed me for the Honda Challenge coverage.  After that we kept in touch on Facebook and such, seeing each other at meets and the track.  Then he moved his shop to my neck of the woods, and then something else happened.

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Our boy got a job at Miller Motorsports Park, working on the Mustangs, taking people out in said Mustangs and being a driver/instructor for their Raptor Assault program.  Our baby boy was growing up!  Innovative was still kicking, and they were doing a lot of suspension set up for local racers.  They were also dabbling in the local drift scene.  Before long Innovative was the title sponsor, and Jason (along with some of the local drifters) was the driving force behind Salt City Drift.

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From tire tech to a driving instructor by day and champion of the local drift scene by night, He had come a mighty long way.  Through him drifting had a better foothold at Miller, and some locals had sponsors for their pro-am endeavors.  It had looked like Jason had set down roots, and wouldn’t be leaving Utah.  How could he?  It’s not like an even better opportunity would come along…

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As fate would have it, a better opportunity did come about.  The Vegas Off Road Experience offered him a position where he’d be doing a lot of the same things: instructing, working on the vehicles, and racing said vehicles.  Not just little things, but full on desert races: Vegas To Reno and the Mint 400.  He also go to do stuff at SEMA, like drift and jump one of the VORE Raptors and hob knob with industry execs.  If that isn’t top 5 dream job, then I don’t know what is.

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I consider Jason a true friend, a guy who if he needs something I’ll go out of my way to help.  And he’s done the same for me and CAM.  When we needed a place to stay for SEMA last year he opened his house to Joey and I.  He hooked me up with parts for Rhonda, and I’ve shot some products for Innovative and Miller when he was there.

When people ask me what living the dream is I point to my friend Jason and say “that”.  He’s doing what he loves, providing for his family by doing so, and raising a trio of awesome kids.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Words and photos by Michael Chandler
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.

 

08th Jan2015

The Man, The Myth, The Beard: Rutledge Wood

by Michael Chandler

 

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Photo Credit: Matthew McDermott, History Channel

 

He’s big, he wears plaid/flannel shirts, has an impressive collection of cars, and has a melon the size of Europa.  He is Rutledge Wood, and he is one of the hosts of Top Gear in America.  Rut is one of us: he likes/owns weird cars, builds many cool projects, is a motorsports fan, and is willing to sit down and chat with fellow gear heads.  We caught up with him at SEMA last year to get a quick interview.  Unfortunately, my phone (which I was using to record the interview) died before I could get my first question out.  BUT I did take notes!

Rutledge came upon the opportunity to co-host Top Gear while he was working as a correspondent on NASCAR Race Day on SPEED.  He’s a NASCAR fan, but his first race was in 2005.  I asked him what his favorite NASCAR tracks were, past and present.  His answers? Riverside for the classic, but the modern tracks were a toss up between Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.  His favorite NASCAR moment wasn’t a race, but it was going down the hill at Bristol in the snow!  Remember folks, it’s the little things.  Speaking of little things…

Rutledge Wood at SEMA 2014

Rutledge, talking about The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Photo credit Michael Chandler, CAMautoMag.com

 

His least favorite Top Gear challenge involved many little things.  It was the nightmare fuel challenge that was the rat helmet.  *shudder* On an infinitely lighter note, his favorite challenge vehicle was the big single turbo, 2JZ powered Scion xB, which he bought because who wouldn’t want that in their garage?  He also bought the school bus snow plow doom bringer from the Snow Show episode.  Again, who wouldn’t want that??  I asked him for any bits of information about the upcoming season and he wanted to tell me everything, the look was there in his face, but he said that there was too much good stuff coming down the pipe.

And finally I asked about the bearded man behind the bearded man on TV.  In the first season he came clean about his love for Hondas.  I asked if he was still a Honda guy, and he is.  He’s also a VW guy, and a Chevy guy, and a MOPAR guy.  He’s a car guy.  A car guy who’s gone through 75 cars like a boss.  Ok, with that knowledge in hand I asked him what his favorite car is and what mode of transportation was his favorite outside of the car.  Favorite car is a resto-mod ’57 Bel-Air, a total cruiser.  And his favorite mode of transportation is the car.  The plane is convenient, but nothing beats the car.  And finally, if he’s running out the door and has to grab something to sustain himself it’s going to be a protein bar with a cup of coffee or some juice.

Ladies and gentlemen, he is a mythic creature.  A loathsome offensive brute, yet impossible not to look at.  He’s just like us: he works hard, works on awesome cars, and goes home to his family every night.  The only difference is he’s worked as a NASCAR correspondent and now he’s hosting Top Gear.

Words by Michael Chandler, photos as credited
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.