CORNELIUS – Ryan Reed tracks the gauges in his car during NASCAR Nationwide Series races the same way 39 other drivers do. He doesn’t want his RPMs, fuel, oil or water pressure to go to an extreme.
Reed, however, has to keep his eyes on more than just the car’s health.
The 20-year-old Cornelius resident was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2011, so he has a continuous glucose monitor alongside other gauges in his No. 16 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford. If Reed’s blood sugar gets too high, he has to make a pit stop and a crew member gives him an insulin shot – though it’s never come to that.
“I had to re-learn how to race after my diagnosis,” Reed said. “I was so nervous about sugar and insulin that it was hard to focus. Before qualifying, I wouldn’t think, ‘What’s the best line around the track?’ I’d think, ‘Oh no, what’s my blood sugar?’ There’s no margin for error.”
It could’ve been much worse.
Doctors told Reed he would never race again when he was diagnosed with the disease in February 2011. He sought further help from Dr. Anne Peters, an internationally renowned diabetologist based in Los Angeles.
“She had a lot of answers, and at the time, I had no answers,” Reed said. “I just wanted to race again. She had a gameplan for everything.”
Reed was back in a car just a few months later.
He started his own foundation, RyansMission.org, to promote diabetes awareness. He also competed in the ARCA Racing Series and the Camping World Truck Series in 2012.
Reed’s relationship with Ford Racing, who advocates diabetes awareness, got him in touch with Eric Peterson, Roush-Fenway’s operations manager. Roush-Fenway began its partnership with Reed in February, just two years after Reed was told he’d never race again.
“I sat down with (team owner) Jack Roush and told him the whole story, and he was very supportive,” Reed said. “That meant a lot to me.”
Reed made six starts for RFR this year. He’ll compete for Rookie of the Year honors in the Drive to Stop Diabetes Ford when the 2014 campaign begins.
Reed is thankful to have motorsports as a platform for diabetes awareness. It helped him develop a bond with his team.
“Some crew guys will fight for their driver,” Reed said. “This group takes it further. They’re involved in the cause. They recognize what I go through. They know to recognize symptoms. This is something that affects more people than just those who have it. A lot of people know someone with diabetes.”
Reed will drive alongside Trevor Bayne – who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis this year, but will keep racing.
Reed no longer sees diabetes as a deterrent to his career. He’s more excited than ever to get in the car.
“We can put ourselves in contention and go to work,” he said. “I think it’ll be a great year.”