These are the drivers who were taken too soon. Although no longer with us, their passion for the sport left an impact on Vermont SportsCar – and on all who had the privilege of racing, and knowing them.
Ken Block 1967- 2023
The first time I met Ken was back when he got his start in motorsports and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. At that time Ken was a sponsor of Travis Pastrana’s (through DC Shoes) and he just wanted to go do the fun rally stuff he saw Travis doing! We arranged a Rally School session, then prepared a rally car for him and went rallying. The rest was history.
It was so interesting to see someone enter the sport as a true fan but also a visionary marketer and businessman. In the early 2000s, rally was struggling to gain attention in the United States, and I knew we needed to revamp the marketing side of the sport for it to grow. I had just started work on launching Pastrana’s rally career and felt we were onto something there – that Pastrana’s superstar status would inject some life into rallying in the states. That’s when Ken came along to take it to another level entirely. Ken was a visionary and a mentor with fresh ideas and a unique viewpoint. I was eager to hear his next big idea and help bring it to life.
Ken transformed motorsports marketing with his creative talent, focus, and passion. He developed a new formula that created engaging entertainment for fans and brought our sport to the attention of millions of new people. His impact on car culture and how motorsports can be marketed is undeniable.
Ken quickly proved he was first and foremost a driver, and it was amazing to see his talent behind the wheel. It was a revelation early-on when we realized he had serious driving talent. He was no longer a businessman who wanted to go have fun with cars, he was a legit professional driver with world class talent who could also win races. Consider that Ken didn’t even get his start in cars until he was around 40 years old! One can only imagine if he had started younger…but alas he was busy fundamentally influencing action sports and skateboarding/snowboarding culture. It’s easy to forget that he had already accomplished so much BEFORE stepping foot in a rally car.
I fondly remember some awkward moments with Ken when he was around fans early in his rally career. In those early years alongside Pastrana nobody knew who Ken was, and Ken could be shy and awkward. We would do autograph sessions with Pastrana and Ken would sit next to him and sigh that nobody was there for him, they were there for Travis. I’d encourage him to sit back down, stick it out and just keep at it. It didn’t take long for the tables to turn and for Ken to be equally as famous as Pastrana. Ken’s perspective was so unique, as his business background was built upon taking action sports athletes and marketing them, making them heroes. Now he needed to play both roles, and be the marketer and the athlete at the same time. I don’t think that was easy at first for him, but he excelled and became the fan friendly ambassador that the sport needed.
But the best part of working with Ken was that on the inside Ken was just a rally geek like the rest of us. He could’ve just gone off and driven and done whatever he wanted, maybe under the radar, but like most rally fans he wanted to tell the world about rally, to share that passion, to give rally the respect and attention that we believe it deserves. I think Ken enjoyed that part best; showing how gnarly our sport is, trying to spread that passion and make new fans. All the while he was having a blast driving and being a part of the rally community.
Lastly, it was so great to see him become a father, and then see how he involved his family with his passions and with rallying. He was a genuine down to earth guy who loved what he did and loved his family. He surely had so much more to give and achieve, but we must appreciate all that he gifted us and all the memories he created with us. He is a treasure and a legend and his impact on all of us will never be erased or forgotten. Our hearts are with his wife Lucy and his three children and his extended family of team members and colleagues. – Chris Yandell