NASCAR's Ryan Reed Drives to Stop Diabetes
Ryan Reed, 20, of Bakersfield, Calif., is chasing his dream to become a top NASCAR driver. He's racing in NASCAR Nationwide Series events this year as a development driver for one of the top names in the sport. He's also the founder of a nonprofit organization, Ryan's Mission, which strives to raise awareness and positively touch the lives of people who have been affected by diabetes. And, he's doing all this while taking care of his own type 1.
Reed powered up his advocacy efforts by joining with the American Diabetes Association to create the Drive to Stop DiabetesSM campaign, with awareness and educational events at select NASCAR Nationwide races and off track, too. He drives the No. 16 Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford Mustang, with a paint scheme that you can't miss.
Reed's NASCAR Nationwide debut drive for Roush Fenway Racing was in Richmond, Va., in April. After driving aggressively toward a top-10 finish and while jockeying for 5th place with only 10 laps to go, he got tangled and clipped the outside wall. He came in 16th, which is feeding his determination for the rest of the season.
You can watch Reed in select NASCAR Nationwide Series races this year, as well as see him in NASCAR Whelen Super Late Model and Pro Late Model 100 races. At press time, his next NASCAR Nationwide event was scheduled for August 23 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Cheer Ryan Reed at these NASCAR Nationwide events:
Richmond (Va.) International Raceway
Phoenix International Raceway
Diabetes entered Reed's life a few short years ago, just as his young racing career was hitting high gear—he was Rookie of the Year, Super Late Model division, Toyota Speedway, at age 17. After receiving the diagnosis, he left the doctor's office and, naturally, took a drive to clear his head. He remembers thinking, "Even if I can't race professionally, I'll turn over every stone to give it my best."
He went online and hope grew as he read about athletes competing with diabetes. He contacted Indy driver Charlie Kimball's endocrinologist, Anne Peters, MD, of the University of Southern California Clinical Diabetes Program. She couldn't promise him he'd be able to compete but did promise that she'd help him grab every opportunity if he would strive for it.
Reed enlisted specialists such as a dietitian and personal trainers to help him navigate the insulin, eating, and exercise plan he'd need to compete in top form. The self-styled "slightly chubby kid" put the pedal to the metal.
Working out is part of his job, with a mix of aerobic, weight, endurance, and yoga training. He has a carefully balanced eating plan, which he regularly fine-tunes, to ensure the optimal mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrate for practice, race days, and recovery.
Reed preps to deal with any number of variables, including heat and hormones. It can reach 160 degrees inside the car and racing suit. Heat and exertion can make his blood glucose drop, but adrenaline can raise it, especially at the starting line. Of course, starting a race with blood glucose a bit high is simply a safety precaution. "When I strap in, I'm ready to go," he says.
His car hydration system includes a carb-loaded "accelerator" beverage. Instead of counting carbs, he counts gulps when he needs glucose—four gulps equals about 20 grams of carbohydrate.
Service to others is a big part of Reed's life, and he enjoys the special bond he has with people living with diabetes. Adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes identify with him. Kids ask him what brand of meter he uses and how many shots he takes a day. And maybe, just maybe, diabetes is a secret weapon. "It helps me be a better athlete on all fronts," he says. "I know how my body works, how glucose is stored in muscles."
You can be part of Reed's support crew. Check out DrivetoStopDiabetes.org to see Reed's complete race schedule and shop for gear. He's active in social media; find him on Facebook and Twitter (@driverRyanReed).