(Ryan Reed and NASCAR star Kyle Busch. Photo Courtesy of Ryan Reed Racing)
The yellow flag came out recently for Ryan Reed, the 2010 NASCAR Super Late Model Rookie of the Year and the youngest winner in Irwindale Speedway history: type 1 diabetes. Reed, a 17 year old from Bakersfield, California, was diagnosed in February just as his career was picking up impressive speed. He has no intention of allowing the disease to set him back.
Ryan, halfway through his senior year of high school, had just reached a developmental agreement with Kyle Busch Motorsports and was getting ready to relocate to North Carolina, the NASCAR capital, when he fell ill February 7. He was returning home from a trip to North Carolina, where he was organizing the race shop and preparing for his big move, when he first felt symptoms of the disease. He had mentioned to his parents that he was not feeling well and had lost a substantial amount of weight.
“When I picked up Ryan from the airport my heart sank as I knew something was seriously wrong,” said his father, Mark Reed. “I know Ryan better than anyone and he had lost so much weight in just 10 days.”
Ryan immediately went to see his doctor, where he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The news was devastating; here he was, on the brink of a career breakthrough, and his dreams of a NASCAR career were suddenly in jeopardy. Ryan’s parents pulled out all the stops to get him healthy. After weeks of testing, Ryan found his medical savior in Dr. Anne Peters, Director of Clinical Diabetes Programs at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
In initial consultations with other doctors, Ryan was told that if treated properly he could live a healthy and normal life -- but a future in racing was questionable. That all changed when Ryan walked into Dr. Peters’ office. Peters, who also treats the type 1 diabetes of Indy car driver Charlie Kimball, told Ryan, “You will race and you will be fine.”
As far as Ryan is concerned, the green flag is back out. “This has been the craziest ride ever, and I can’t thank my parents and Anne enough for helping me,” he said. “I was just going through life like any teenager and overnight everything changed. I had to trust that God had a plan for me and it would all be OK.”
Ryan’s 2011 plans have been delayed but he is slowly getting back on track. Since February, Ryan has had to change almost everything about his daily routine: diet, exercise, blood glucose readings, on track data, and reporting all of this information weekly to his medical / nutritional team in California. But he has now received NASCAR medical clearance to return to the track.
With one of the best medical team’s available and sophisticated wireless monitoring systems in place, Ryan will head back to the track. The 2011 season will see Ryan racing all over the southeast in select Super Late Models, NASCAR K&N East Series, and possibly a few NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events. Most of the early races will be fielded out of Ryan’s own shop in Mooresville, North Carolina, as the final details are worked out with KBM and his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Program. “We’re happy to hear that Ryan’s doctors have his diabetes under control and he’s cleared to race again,” said Busch. “He definitely hit a little bump in the road, but this challenge has made him a stronger person and even more determined to have a successful career in racing. We look forward to helping Ryan continue to develop as a driver and also help in his effort to spread awareness about diabetes.”
It appears that Ryan will be the first known driver to try and break into the top 3 divisions of NASCAR battling this disease, an accomplishment that comes from the hard work and dedication Ryan had from the day of the news.
Ryan has decided to take a very aggressive role in spreading diabetes awareness, and has asked his fans and sponsors to help support this effort. “The support has been overwhelming,” Ryan said. “Kyle Busch was one the first people to let me know that he will do anything he can to help me adjust to my condition.
Diabetes is an epidemic, both in the United States and throughout the world. In the United States approximately 26 million individuals have diabetes; most have type 2 diabetes and nearly 1 million have type 1. In the United States 79 million have prediabetes and many don’t know it. The important health messages are that type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed in many cases, if people are aware of the risk factors for the disease. While there is no cure, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are treatable, if proper healthcare is obtained. Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and nontraumatic amputation in the United States. So raising awareness both of the prevention of type 2 diabetes as well as the need for the proper treatment of diabetes is something that Ryan, as a NASCAR driver, will have an amazing opportunity to do. By example he will be able to show what is possible for all people with diabetes.
To learn more about Ryan and his quest to manage his diabetes while competing in the intense world of racing, visit www.RyanReedRacing.com. You will find an updated schedule and major sponsorship announcements. The site will also feature interactive functions, more information about diabetes and links to support American Diabetes Association & “Ryan’s Mission,” a program dedicated to the support and awareness of those with diabetes.
Ryan and team will be making their first NASCAR K&N East Series start this weekend at Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA. Fresh off high school graduation in Bakersfield, California, the event will mark a major accomplishment in the teenager’s early career.