Start your engines! On July 25, 2015, NASCAR drivers will take to the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to race in the Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series. This is the second year Lilly Diabetes (headquartered in Indianapolis) has sponsored the race, which consists of 100 laps around the historic speedway’s 2.5-mile course
What makes this event such a special one in the NASCAR series? Not only is the Lilly Diabetes 250 dedicated to diabetes awareness and management, but if you spot the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang zooming around the track, inside you’ll find Ryan Reed, a race car driver who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 17.
Staying the Course
Now 21 years old and considered one of the racing world’s rising stars, Reed thought his NASCAR dreams were over when he was told shortly after diagnosis that he would never race again. However, once Reed learned more about his diabetes and strategies for proper type 1 management, he realized that it didn’t have to be that way.
As Reed reports, “I knew that through hard work, dedication, and a great support system, I could manage the disease and not let diabetes get in the way of achieving my goals.”
And he has done just that. Now a driver with Roush Fenway Racing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Reed started the 2015 season with a dramatic win at the famed Daytona International Speedway.
Even with his busy race schedule, Ryan also dedicates himself to giving back to the diabetes community, including joining forces with the American Diabetes Association and Lilly Diabetes in the Drive to Stop DiabetesSM, an initiative that brings awareness and diabetes education to thousands of NASCAR fans nationwide.
Reed’s preparation for a race like the Lilly Diabetes 250 begins months before the checkered flag waves. Back in January, Reed was already working out twice a day, eating healthy foods, practicing for hours in a racing simulator, and of course, all the while, taking care of his diabetes.
“During the [winter] off-season, I see my doctor and then work with my diabetes team to make any changes in my management routines that I need to,” Reed explains.
Reed drives in 33 races from New Hampshire to California between February and November. As each race draws closer, he begins to visualize himself driving on the track as a way to keep his nerves in check. “It gets easier when you know what to expect, but going through the race in my head helps me to mentally prepare.”
With every race, Reed and his pit crew have managing his diabetes down to a science. Reed checks his blood sugar several times before the race and makes any needed adjustments. Once the race begins, a special tool in his car helps him continually monitor his blood sugar.
“I have a CGM [continuous glucose monitor] mounted to the dash that I can see during the race. It’s very convenient and comforting to know it’s on board,” Reed explains. If his blood sugar falls, his helmet is equipped with a glucose drink that he’s able to sip; if his numbers are high, he can pull over and his pit crew “insulin team” is ready with the correct dose. He has a special target on the thigh of his fire suit designed especially for an insulin injection if needed.
If it sounds like a lot of extra work, it’s not to Reed. “My team and I are now so well-rehearsed in all of this that it’s really just part of what I do out there on the track. None of it is a distraction,” he affirms.
On July 25, Reed and approximately 40 other drivers will be taking part in the Lilly Diabetes 250. Regardless of the outcome of the race, in many ways, Reed feels like he’s already won. According to the #16 driver, “Success in my eyes is not to show that someone with diabetes can perform well in one race, but that we can all reach for our dreams.”
The diabetes community will be rooting for you, Ryan!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.