Diabetes Forecast

Team Type All

Editor Kelly Rawlings recounts her pre-race prep experience from Ryan Reed’s race at Iowa Motor Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 1

By Kelly Rawlings ,

Action Sports Photography Inc.

I drive past miles of lush cornfields before it appears: Iowa Speedway, poised for the qualifying rounds of the NASCAR Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 race. I’m here to meet the Roush Fenway Racing team, including driver Ryan Reed, and see the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang.

I’m curious about the team that makes it possible for Reed, 22, to strap himself into a hand-built vehicle of sheet-metal skin around steel tubing and speed around the oval track just shy of a mile in length.

For this race, team member and truck driver Jay Maybry Team, lovingly known as the team’s “mom,” safely guided the hauler carrying the car and tons of gear over the many miles from North Carolina to Newton, Iowa. Members of the A-team unloaded the car and ushered it through inspections. NASCAR officials used to hold up templates to the cars to make sure they were in spec; now, a fancy laser setup takes care of business.

The team has NASCAR’s special approval for an extra piece of electronic equipment in No. 16: the receiver for Reed’s continuous glucose monitor. While Reed’s in the driver’s seat, crew chief Seth Barbour will ask him how the car is performing, noting any mechanical problems that need a fix during the next pit stop. Barbour also asks another important question: How are you? That’s code for: How’s your blood glucose level? Glucose solution is always at hand and there’s a silk target on the thigh of Reed’s fire suit—the can’t-miss spot should he ever need insulin or glucagon during a race.

Inside the mercifully air-conditioned hauler, the walls are lined with cabinet doors. Open one and you’ll see rolling carts bedecked with orderly rows of tools—everything shiny clean and in its place. Rodney Fetters, pit crew coach, is my unofficial tour guide today. 

He says he’s worked with many racing sponsors during his years in the sport, but the focus on diabetes is especially meaningful to the No. 16 team: At least five members of the team have a personal connection to diabetes, such as the crew member’s wife who has a Lilly 25-year Diabetes Journey medal. On top of that, fans of all ages share their stories with the team about what it means to live with diabetes.

Today, in prep for qualifying rounds, team members gather around the shiny red pit cart. Engineer Katelyn Bernasconi scrutinizes computer screens. Occasionally, a team member adds a bag of ice to keep the generator cool in this 90-degree heat. Reed is relaxed yet ready, perched on the pit wall in his fire suit and shades, chatting to crew chief Barbour.

The No. 16 car, proudly emblazoned with Drive to Stop Diabetes decals, is poised for action. Just above the passenger door, a decal features the name of Youth Ambassador Kolsie Bixler from Lisbon, Iowa. The 8-year-old, who has type 1, has raised more than $2,000 through Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes®.

Fans line up behind the barricades. Crew members crisscross the pavement. Gas men roll fuel cans on carts. Fat tires wait in soldierly rows. Engines rev. Got earplugs?

The cars pull out for the first qualifying run. Reed is in position 20 and advances to round two. He communicates to his team that the car is tight on entry and he’ll make another run before the second session ends. Team members note how the competition lines up. After round two, Reed is 21st on the speed charts. That’s where he’ll start tonight’s race.

To reach that point, there’s been an incredible amount of teamwork. Each member has a specific role and knows how to do it very well. They train intensively. Like any other athletes, after an event, the pit crew members review tapes of the pit stops and analyze their performance.

All of the prep work, the painstaking attention to detail, and the backup supplies are a metaphor for life with diabetes. Behind every driver is a great team. Seeing that teamwork come together to raise diabetes awareness makes me want to cheer. And that’s even before the solid green flag signals the start of the race.

Ryan’s Challenge

Ryan Reed knows he has type 1 diabetes. But too many Americans don’t know their risk for type 2. Please help Reed and the American Diabetes Association raise awareness by urging your friends, family, coworkers, and others to take the type 2 Diabetes Risk Test, a first step in preventing diabetes. It's free, quick, and painless: diabetes.org/ryanschallenge.

Ryan’s 2015 Big Wins

  • 1st place finish, Chicagoland Speedway, Scott 150 ARCA Series, June 20, 2015
  • 1st place finish, Daytona International Speedway, 2015 Xfinity Series kickoff

Upcoming Races

  • 10/17 Kansas Lottery 300, Kansas Speedway
  • 11/7 O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, Texas Motor Speedway
  • 11/14 DAV 200 Honoring America’s Veterans presented by Great Clips, Phoenix International Raceway
  • 11/21 Ford EcoBoost 300, Homestead-Miami Speedway


Take the Type 2
Diabetes Risk Test