NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) driver Ryan Reed is the ambassador and spokesperson for Drive to Stop Diabetes℠, a diabetes awareness initiative with the American Diabetes Association and Lilly Diabetes. Reed, who has raced since the age of four, was diagnosed at the age of 17 with type 1 diabetes and was told that he would never be able to race again. Once he learned more about diabetes and its widespread impact, he decided to continue racing, and became an advocate for diabetes awareness, starting his own foundation, Ryan's Mission, to educate people about the disease.

Reed joined forces with the American Diabetes Association and created Drive to Stop Diabetes, with awareness and educational events at select NNS races as well as several off-track health and wellness initiatives throughout 2014. Reed is set to run the full 2014 NNS schedule for Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 16 American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop Diabetes℠ presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang.

We had a chance to speak with Ryan about his racing career, managing diabetes, and Drive to Stop Diabetes.

QH: How did you get into racing? The notes I have say you started racing at age 4.
RR: My dad grew up racing cars, and went on to eventually race in NASCAR, so I grew up at a racetrack and it was just always something that I wanted to do. Obviously, I started really young, and I was in love with the sport since I can remember. I don't remember a time I didn't want to drive racecars.

QH: You raced cars growing up and throughout your teens. Then, at age 17 you were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. What led up to that, and what was the conversation like with your doctor?
RR: I had moved out to North Carolina to... kind of continue climbing the ladder of racing. Charlottesville is basically the hub for NASCAR. When I was there, I was drinking a lot of water, kind of always thirsty. I flew back out to California to get the rest of my stuff and finish packing up, and my parents said, "You know, you should see a doctor, you've lost a lot of weight." And since my parents were really concerned, the next day I went to a doctor. The first doctor I went to was a family physician and she pretty much diagnosed me on the spot. I told her my symptoms, she checked my blood sugar, and I was over 300, fasting.

So my reaction was, "How is this going to affect me in the racecar?" and she told me I wasn't going to be able to race again. And I was 17 and my overall health wasn't as big a concern as what I wanted to do, and at first I didn't really understand what diabetes was and why this disease was stopping me from driving a racecar. So it was a couple of weeks, three weeks, of me studying the disease and trying to learn about it and trying to find some answers. And luckily I found and endocrinologist out of southern California named Anne Peters and she just took it head on, "No, we're going to get you back in a racecar, I'll work with NASCAR and do whatever I have to do."

QH: What's your eating and training plan like?
It's pretty elaborate. About 72 hours before an event, I have a nutritionist that lays out a plan, not necessarily what to eat, but there's certain carbohydrates and protiens and fats and sugars and stuff that I need to eat. Then there's a fitness trainer who trains the pit crews and the drivers, and he's an ex-trainer for the Jets, so his training's pretty intense. And I also do some triathlon training on my own. The training side is a mixture of endurance training and cross training. As far as driving a racecar goes, it makes you a better athlete. And as far as the diabetes goes, the fitter I am and the more consistent my diet, the better control I have over my blood sugar.

QH: What devices do you use to manage diabetes? And do you need to monitor blood sugar levels during a race?
RR: The hard thing about driving a racecar is you're wearing gloves, and you can go an hour before seeing a caution or a break in the race where you may be able to pull off and check your blood sugar, so having a continuous glucose monitor is real important. I use the Dexcom G4 Platinum. We have other things in place. I have a drink with me. I don't know if you've ever seen a Camelbak, but there's a Camelbak mouthpiece in my helmet. It's kinda like an endurance drink but it's got other things added to it to help balance blood sugar. So I have that in case of low blood sugar. And in case of high blood sugar, there's a guy on my pit crew who is trained to give me an insulin injection during a pit stop, and there's a target on my suit where the guy can give me the injection. But those are more like backup plans. With diet and exercise, I do everything I can before I get in the racecar. I've never really had to use any of these. I monitor during the race and like to keep it at 200. We're not always on target, but I've had a lot of success with it so far.

QH: What advice would you give to someone diagnosed with diabetes?
RR: Everyone's diagnosis is different, but make sure your doctor is extremely encouraging, and don't give up on your dreams. Fight this. Don't let it hold you back. Coming up on the 2014 season, I've been driving with diabetes for a couple of years now, and the doctor for the physical told me, "You can't race with diabetes," and I said, "No, I can," and I have plans for this year, I have plans for NASCAR, I'm just here to get a physical." I think there's still a lot of doctors who are not fully aware of the possibilities with the condition, or just don't have the experience with diabetes, or just don't know about the latest advances. You don't have to give up on your dreams. There have been so many improvements in the diabetes community in the last few years and they're continuing. You don't have to let your diagnosis hold you back.

QH: Can you say a few words about Drive to Stop Diabetes, your partnership with the American Diabetes Association?
RR: Drive to Stop Diabetes is something I've wanted to be a part of, it's been a work in progress for a couple of years, but to be able to take what I love to do, drive racecars, and combine it with my other passion which is to inspire people with diabetes, Drive to Stop Diabetes is a perfect platform. And the American Diabetes Association is really making it happen. They have a Drive to Stop Diabetes racecar out there, week in week out, and we're spreading exactly the message we want to be spreading.

Learn more about Ryan's work with the American Diabetes Association at For more information about Lilly Diabetes, the program's National Presenting Sponsor, visit

You can also follow Ryan and Drive to Stop Diabetes on Twitter @driverRyanReed and @drivetostop.