A few years ago, Ken Block was a behind-the-scenes corporate dude signing the checks his company, DC Shoes, paid to some of the biggest stars in action sports, including Rob Dyrdek, Travis Pastrana and Dave Mirra. Today, as one of the top rally drivers in the world, he's one of those stars. And his Gymkhana videos have everything to do with that fact. In the latest -- "Gymkhana THREE, Part 2; Ultimate Playground" -- Block, 43, tested his Ford Fiesta rally car against a 51-degree banked turn located at L'autodrome de Linas-Montlhery, a track just south of Paris, and cemented his cred as one of the coolest motorsports stars in the world. Although G3P2 didn't debut until September, it earned enough clicks -- more than 20 million -- to be declared the No. 10 most-watched YouTube video of the year. The entire Gymkhana series has pulled in nearly 100 million views and "Gymkhana TWO" was named to Ad Age's list of top 10 viral videos of all time. All that has helped bring Block's brand to an entirely new audience and helped Block sell as much signature gear as any athlete at the company he co-founded in 1994.
Pastrana Goes Left
With Pastrana's move to NASCAR, he hopes to do the same. Spend time at a NASCAR race and chances are you won't see many kids in the crowd wearing motocross T-shirts or DC shoes. That might not be the case in a couple of years, especially if Pastrana's 2011 Nationwide campaign goes smoothly. That means finishing a few races toward the front of the pack, staying out of the walls and not pissing off too many of his competitors. Sure, Pastrana's never raced on an oval, and hadn't stepped foot inside a Nationwide car until December. But this is Pastrana we're talking about, a guy who decided to test his skills at rally racing and then took four Rally America championships in five years, nearly won the 2006 Race of Champions without a teammate and recently set a world record for the fastest ascent of Mount Washington in a car. If anyone can do it, it's Pastrana. And he knows how much is riding in his passenger seat. If Pastrana-Waltrip Racing is successful, it can do more than bring new eyeballs to the sport. It can usher in a new style of racer, as well. Action sports stars Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Brian Deegan and Dave Mirra -- among many others -- are waiting in the wings for a chance at a ride in NASCAR's highest ranks. Pastrana's success can pave the way for them.