I had the opportunity for a one-on-one interview with NASCAR Xfinity Series ‘checker-flag’ recipient, Ryan Reed, shortly after his huge victory at Daytona National Speedway last weekend. This remarkable young man is not only taking NASCAR by storm, he and his partners at Lilly Diabetes and The American Diabetes Association’s Drive To Stop Diabetes, are also allowing many other people, mostly young people, to meet Ryan and hear his story first hand.
Lives are being changed. As you listen to Ryan speak, it’s as clear as can be that his passion for being in NASCAR may very well only be surpassed by his desire to touch lives. And he’s doing JUST THAT.
Thank you so much for taking the time today; and first of all; congratulations on your big win.
Ryan: Thanks it was a fun weekend.
In the race, you have two laps to go, you are 4 cars back. What goes through your mind at that moment?
Ryan: You take it ‘corner-by-corner’. Trying to take advantage and deal with the fact that the leader can just pull away. I was side-by-side with the 33 car and when a few cars ‘got together’ (collided) I was in a good position and took advantage in the back straightaway. During the race when the two cars got together, where you surprised that the yellow caution flag did not come out? Ryan: I was concerned. But the two cars that got together; they keep moving onto the grass and emergency vehicles were not needed, the race officials will allow the race to continue and not display the cautionary flag if there is no perceived danger. You just never know, you cannot think about it and need to just keep going.
I have heard you say that you drive with gloves on and checking your blood sugar is not an option by finger pricking; you use the Dexcom; who is looking at it, you, a pit crew member?
Ryan: I have 5-6-7 gauges that I have to keep an eye on located on my dash, the Dexcom (receiver) is one of those gauges; it is not inconvenient at all to keep an eye on it while racing.
Was there anything that needed ‘tending to’ during the race from trending up and/or down?
Ryan: No it was pretty much business-as-usual. Between the heat in the car and the adrenalin pumping, I stay hydrated. I pretty much stay where my number is at levels I need them to be. I start at about 100-120 and usually end the race at around the 180-200 range.
You have been around the track since age 4; who inspired you?
Ryan: My dad, I was always pulling for him when he raced. There were a lot of guys that I learned from who broke into the race when they were young. I looked up to them to learn some things because I knew as a younger race I would need to know; a few guys really inspired me as I started to get into it.
Did you always have the ‘need’ to go faster?
Ryan: Anything that had a motor was always a lot of fun to me. Growing up it was, and still is, fun for me to do. I enjoyed motor cycle riding but, for me, it was always NASCAR. I did not want to compete with motorbikes; it has always been about being 100% on a NASCAR track as my goal.
You’re 21; is 21 considered young for racing?
Ryan: In the Xfinity Series, you can start at 18, and you will find 18-25 as an average but racers are in this series at 55. So the ages can, and do, vary.
There have been professional athletes, upon being diagnosed with T1, told they could not no longer compete; can you take us back to when you were told that; how you felt, and what you did when you decided that ‘diabetes just won’t do on my track?’
Ryan: It was a tough time in my life and that transition when I was told I could not race any more. The turning point came with my Doctor, Dr. Anne Peters. She had a very different outlook on it. She was just so confident and instilled the confidence in me that if I gave 100% we would make it happen. From that point forward I was never worried about getting in a race again, and just wondered how we would do it.
You are diagnosed. You deal with it. You now go back to your parents and you say you want to get back out on to the track; what was their reaction?
Ryan: They were super supportive. They knew the track is where I wanted to be and there were some who stood up and said ‘No’ you can’t do that, or we don’t want you to do that, that was a conversation we never needed to have. I would like to talk a little about your relationship with Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association.
When you look at your car, and you see those logos, they must represent more than a sponsorship. It makes a statement to the world. How does it feel knowing that you all work to make real differences in this world?
Ryan: Absolutely. I think we have one of the most-unique partnerships in motor sports or in any type of sports marketing in the country; or the world. The partnership among us, Lilly Diabetes, and The American Diabetes Association is just so organic, and pure. Three organizations working together for a common goal to raise awareness and send a positive message. I do not know how you can get more pure a message. The main reason is to spread a positive message about diabetes. Last weekend when I jumped out of my car, I did not have to talk or rattle about sponsorships but I could tell my story and how much this (the win) means for people with diabetes. I cannot thank Lilly Diabetes and the ADA enough for teaching me how important it is to tell my story and try to make a difference. It’s rare and really cool.
Tell me about the meetings that Lilly Diabetes and the ADA’s Drive to Stop Diabetes (click to learn more) set up for you where you meet kids around the appearances of your race schedule. Can you tell me what those meetings are like when you see all those young people?
Ryan: We sat down and figured out how we could design Drive to Stop Diabetes, you know away from the racetracks. Hospitals, diabetes camps and any place that is involving kids. It’s the coolest part. Not to just tell my story but hear about the kids doing sports all year round where diabetes doesn’t even phase them. For me that is what it is all about. It is what makes it all worthwhile. What do you say to kids who say, I don’t think I can reach my dreams? Ryan: It’s hard. If someone tells them they can’t…a coach or others; I went through all that and do all I can to get them to stay positive and use any example, either my story with racing, or other stories of people I know to go out there and do what they can.
The last thing I like to do; is mention a word or a phrase, and you tell me the first thing that comes into your mind?
Ryan: draining, difficult
Nothing between you and the checkered flag.
Ryan: What we work for, that’s what it’s all about; winning races.
Other kids living with type 1
Ryan: Inspiration and connection.
Thank you for your time today. I speak with kids all the time trying to find their way out there and you are an incredible and inspirational young man changing the lives of so many who live with type one diabetes, thank you for that and good luck in the future. Ryan: Thank you for saying that and thanks for the interview
Seems to me this young man was a winner long before he ever crossed first in front of a waving checkered flag.
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