Claim to fame: NASCAR race car driver
DOB: August 12, 1993
Diabetes Type: 1
Born in Bakersfield, California, Ryan Reed appears to be like any other eighteen-year-old—except this teenager has an addiction to racing that has paid off in a big way. Despite his young age, the up-and-coming driver has been racing for nearly thirteen years. His father, Mark Reed, is also a racecar driver, and had his son in the driver’s seat of karts, stock cars, and various other motorsport vehicles from a young age. He taught him how to recognize and navigate the subtle differences in terrain and vehicle.
Even as a child, Ryan showed great skill in driving, climbing to the top of various racing championships and events. He did not start attracting attention until he won his first Legends Division championship at the age of fourteen. In 2009, Ryan became the Legends Division Track Champion at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale in California. The following year, on the same course, Ryan became Rookie of the Year in the Super Late Model Division, featuring cars that had recently been designed or manufactured. Ryan was the youngest person to win the title at Irwindale in that division.
By 2011, Ryan had made a name for himself by competing in a number of races featuring various tracks, cars, and divisions, particularly the Pro All-stars Series, NASCAR Whelen All American Division, and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. His ability to adapt and compensate for the changing variables of the course and vehicle is what garnered him recognition. Though still only a teenager, Reed has accrued an impressive list of accomplishments that is constantly growing.
In February of 2010, Ryan’s career hit a bump in the road when he learned he had type 1 diabetes. Amid the chaos of relocating to North Carolina to work with Kyle Busch Motorsports, Ryan began to notice an overall lack of energy, weight loss, and thirst that he couldn’t quench. Though he was no stranger to exhaustion and the toll that racing can take on the body, Ryan had an idea that these symptoms were associated not with the stress of competing, but with something more fundamental. He was rushed to a hospital and quickly diagnosed.
Devastated, the racer worried that his future in NASCAR, which had seemed a certainty, would remain little more than a glimpse of a dream. Despite this uncertainty, Ryan struggled to fight the odds and keep his hope alive. The athlete labored to understand all he could about his illness: the dangers as well as what he could do to maintain his health and change the course of his future. As if his time in the hospital had been nothing more than a pit stop, Ryan emerged, fine-tuned and ready to reclaim the track. In a 2011 interview with The HotLap.com, Ryan reflected on his journey, and demonstrated the positive attitude that allowed him to continue on the path to his dream. “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 okay,” he said.
Though the progress of his career had been hindered, the racer soon received clearance from the NASCAR medical board to return to the circuits. He has his sights set on competing in the top 3 division of NASCAR, which would make him the only racer with diabetes to ever compete. Outside of being a role model for people with diabetes, Ryan has made it a priority to spread awareness about diabetes, and has even gone so far as to ask his sponsors to help him fundraise for diabetes research.
A talented, passionate athlete, Ryan is sure to achieve great success, both as a racer and a diabetes advocate. Ryan continues to climb through the ranks of NASCAR’s various divisions and series, setting records and pushing boundaries. Never content, his go-for-gold mentality has won him the attention of a number of racing organizations, and has even stretched over to his diabetes management, awarding him good health and a positive, indomitable attitude.