Ryan Reed may be on the fast track to NASCAR racing now, but he had to get there his own way.
When they were growing up in California, Reed’s older brother Cole drove a Ford Mustang, the same car Reed now races. Though he says he has “a lot of pretty awesome memories” about his brother’s car, they’re all from the passenger seat. “There was no chance of me driving it,” he tells Metro. “My first car was actually the truck that pulled my race trailer.”
Getting behind the wheel wasn’t his only challenge. Reed, 21, is in many ways not the typical type 1 diabetes sufferer. He was diagnosed in his late teens with the disease, which —like type 2 diabetes — has a genetic component but is triggered by unknown factors.
“I definitely had a lot of the symptoms.I was pretty sick, but it was still a shock,” Reed says. “I didn’t know much about diabetes. There’s a lot of misinformation about diabetes that weighed on me.”
The heaviest of his concerns was about his career — by age 4, he was already a Kid’s Kart Track champion, and the Junior 1 Corner champ by 8. But doctors told him he would have to give it all up. “I felt like I could adapt my life, but not to race would be really hard to accept.”
So he didn’t. Reed began to fit managing the disease into his life, instead of letting it set the boundaries. His Roush Fenway Racing stock car is outfitted with a rig that allows him to drink while racing, his dashboard includes a blood glucose monitor, and he receives insulin injections during pit stops.
But, as with racing, managing his condition is about preparation: a healthy diet and exercise. He works with a nutritionist and does strength and endurance training at the gym. And besides his car, there’s another machine that travels with himon race day: a road bike. “The tracks tend to be in really beautiful areas, so I’ll get on my bike and check it out.”
Through Drive to Stop Diabetes, Reed works with children’s organizations, and though he’s usually asked about what brand of insulin pump he uses and how often he checks his blood sugar, it’s hearing about what’s still possible with diabetes that gets kids excited. “I have type 1 diabetes, and I’m still driving a race car. It doesn’t make [diabetes] cool, but it makes it a little less scary.”
Follow Eva Kis on Twitter @thisiskis.