After Ken Block’s death, Lucy Block carries on and expands his racing legacy

PARK CITY, Utah — Lucy Block is giving a tour of the shop in the back of Block House Racing’s headquarters when she turns a corner and pauses speaking for a moment.

“This is it,” she says.

She’s motioning to a large storage space — a warehouse full of stuff, really — with multi-level shelves and bins and spare parts. It looks overwhelming, especially at first glance.

“I know it doesn’t look well-organized, but it’s well-organized,” she says.

There’s a little map showing the location of each bin, its contents and its significance — a resource Lucy leaned upon heavily when she was faced with an unenviable task: Finding 43 items to part with for a charity auction benefiting a foundation set up in the memory of her late husband, Ken Block.

Lucy went through bin after bin with two of Ken’s close associates, reopening faded memories along the way. Some of the items were too close to the family’s heart to let go for an auction; others carried importance for longtime employees, who made arguments for why certain things should be kept.

“There are other people’s thoughts and feelings as well, if they have an attachment to it,” Lucy says. “I’d rather just auction off a different piece.”

Nothing has been easy since Ken’s death in January 2023. The global motorsports icon and rally racer, who created the popular “Gymkhana” video series and co-founded the brands Hoonigan and DC Shoes, was riding a snowmobile near the family’s home in Park City when it upended and landed on him. He was 55.

Suddenly, Lucy was thrust into a variety of roles she never imagined.

For one thing, she was now a single parent of three teenagers. That alone would be plenty for anyone mourning a tragic, unexpected loss.

But Lucy also found herself as a decision-maker for the Block family’s businesses, and in some aspects, the keeper of her husband’s legacy. From the outside, it appears to be an impossible task to juggle it all. And if Lucy stops to consider everything on her plate now, it feels overwhelming.

“You don’t think; you just do,” she says. “I fail at everything, often. There’s too much going on to possibly think I could keep it all going. You just keep moving and do what needs to be done.”

It reminds her of the animated fish Dory from “Finding Nemo,” a character whose motto is “Just keep swimming.” She must — and she will — even if it’s hard.

It’s why, despite some initial thoughts about selling all of Block House Racing’s assets in the early days following Ken’s passing, Lucy is more intent than ever to keep it all going.

“What are we going to do, go play baseball?” says Lucy, who is also an accomplished rally driver. “This is what we do, this is what we love.

“If we changed direction completely, we’d be burying those memories. Why bury them? Why not remember them and smile and have a great time and laugh sometimes and enjoy it?”

Ken Block

Motorsports icon Ken Block died in January 2023 at 55. His wife, Lucy, is carrying on his efforts. “If we changed direction completely, we’d be burying those memories,” she says. (Massimo Bettiol / Getty Images)

There are too many important things ahead: Raising her children, helping foster their own racing dreams, keeping businesses afloat and starting a foundation — the 43 Institute — to continue Ken’s legacy of helping others. On Wednesday (April 3, or 4/3, for Block’s No. 43), the foundation (43i for short) will hold an auction, hosted on the eBay Motors website, with all proceeds going to 43i.

Whether it was a video shoot or a rally race, Ken often kept mangled souvenirs as a tangible way to keep a memory of doing something incredible, aside from simply a photo or video.

“Ken looked at it as there’s no trophies for Gymkhana,” says Ron Zaras, a close friend of the family and Hoonigan Racing Division’s longtime content director. “So to him, these were the symbols of going flat-out and doing everything we can to make the coolest thing possible.”

Among the items they’re parting with, there’s a well-worn lower bumper lip from the legendary “Hoonicorn” (Ken’s favorite car) taken from the filming of “Gymkhana Seven;” a front bumper from a Ford Fiesta RX43, which was raced in a 2015 Global Rallycross event (“If you could take a boxer’s face and take a mold of it, that’s what you have here with this,” Zaras says of that one.); a Cossie sparks wheel with a band system of steel hoops welded around the outside, a creative way to create a fiery effect during the filming of “Gymkhana Ten;” a turbofan from a wheel in “Gymkhana Six,” during the filming of which Block was trying to jump out of a red shipping container with about an inch and a half of clearance on each side but tagged the turbofan and tore it off.

That attitude is celebrated in Block family lore. Inside the Block House headquarters, which is filled with colorful shipping containers that have been turned into things like offices, a conference room, kitchen and merchandise display area, there’s a display of wrecked or damaged parts called the “Ain’t Care Wall.”

A description hanging over the various bent or broken items reads: “To strive to win at any cost, with zero mechanical sympathy or regard for one’s well being.”

When the Blocks’ 17-year-old daughter, Lia, recently damaged her rear wing while racing in Saudi Arabia, she had all of her mechanics sign it with the intention of getting it placed on the Ain’t Care Wall in Park City.

“I guess that’s a pride in our family,” Lucy says with a laugh.

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All three Block children may end up continuing the family’s motorsports journey.

Lia, who won her class of the Baja 1000 while teamed with Lucy, is driving in the all-women F1 Academy series for ART Grand Prix and represents Williams Racing.

Kira, 15, is getting ready to start rallying this year with an eye on potentially running a full rally season when she’s 16 (although she also loves horses and jumps competitively, so she may go that route).

“She would probably be a force to be reckoned with if she actually got serious behind the wheel, because her fear is very low,” Lucy says.

Then there’s Mika, who turns 13 in April. He’ll do the full rally training next year, and it’s “100 percent his passion” to be involved with motorsports, Lucy says.

Lucy will still race herself when there’s time, and she’s unconcerned with the inherent risk of motorsports.

“I don’t look at it as it’s unsafe,” she says. “I don’t look at it as it’s scary. I don’t see that part. If you look at the numbers, I could die in a car accident driving on the road at a higher percentage than if I was driving at a racetrack. Our cars are made to withstand impacts that normal vehicles are not. I’m out there with other trained drivers, not out there with anyone who can just get a license on the road.

“I just don’t look at it as a dangerous sport. I know people probably think that’s insane, and maybe that’s my self-preservation, but I don’t worry about what hasn’t happened.”

That approach is why, in part, Lucy and other Block team members have continued to wear apparel with the “Just Don’t Die” slogan. It stemmed from a conversation Ken had with Lucy, when he asked for her permission to do the Pikes Peak Hill Climb, an annual auto race to the summit of the famed Colorado mountain.

“Just don’t die,” Lucy responded then.

There was a debate among some of Ken’s fans whether the phrase would still be OK to use after his death, but Lucy has given it her blessing after some consideration.

“I don’t see a reason not to wear it,” she says. “Everyone is going to die. No one is going to live forever. It’s more of a thought process: You’re trying your hardest and trying not to die for doing something stupid.

“You’re not going to erase it. It’s part of something that has happened.”

Ken Block

Ken Block drives in the FIA World Rally Championship race in Spain in October 2014. Rallying was the motorsports icon’s preferred form of racing. (Massimo Bettiol / Getty Images)

Lucy did the Pikes Peak Hill Climb last year for the first time (Lia completed a run as well) and has found herself in the unique position of getting opportunities Ken would have perhaps received. But even though she felt she was “not the one who is supposed to be here” in events like Pikes Peak, she says she “enjoyed every moment of it.”

“It’s finding joy in everything I’ve done,” she says. “There are tears shed, but it’s not my personality to focus on the negative. I focus on the positive, the things I love to do and the things Ken loved to do.”

What Ken loved most to do was rally. Lucy says everything he did — all the Gymkhana films, the masterful marketing — was to pay for that.

That makes rallying an important area of focus for 43i, which has discovered one of its early initiatives (a monetary “Flat Out” award for drivers who excelled during a rally event) was used by some competitors to purchase safety equipment.

Lucy plans for 43i to distribute grants to existing organizations instead of trying to start programs on their own and “reinvent the wheel,” she says.

“I just hope we can create enough awareness and generate enough funds for 43i so we can in return make a difference in people’s lives,” she says.

It’s all part of thinking about Ken and hoping her actions would make him smile, which is also why Lucy says she got back on a snowmobile and went riding again.

“It was definitely difficult, but would he want me to not snowmobile? Absolutely not,” she says. “Ken wouldn’t want me to stop my life. He wants me to go and have fun.”

She can still hear what Ken would say when they’d have a couple dozen people at their Park City property — snowmobiling or snowboarding or mountain biking or riding motocross, depending on the season.

Lucy would be in the house cooking food — there were 30 people who needed to eat lunch, after all — and Ken would pop in to chide her for working too hard.

“I can’t tell you how many times he would say, ‘Get outside and play. Stop,’” Lucy says with tears in her eyes. “I listened to that all the time. I listened to him tell me: ‘Go have fun.’

“So I remember that. And I try to do it.”

Lucy Block

“It’s not my personality to focus on the negative,” Lucy Block says. “I focus on the positive, the things I love to do and the things Ken loved to do.” (Courtesy of eBay Motors)

(Top illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photo of Lucy Block: Courtesy of eBay Motors; photos of Ken Block: Massimo Bettiol, Paulo Oliveira / DPI / NurPhoto / Getty Images)

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