Just 17 years old, the young driver was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and doctors said he would never drive a race car again. Fast forward to today, and Reed is living his dream as the driver of the No. 16 Roush-Fenway Ford in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
He hopes his story of determination and overcoming adversity will serve as an inspiration to others living with diabetes.
“Don’t give up on your dreams,” he said Tuesday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. “It’s a lot of work and you can’t take it lightly, but at the end of the day, you can do whatever you want. Every day, diabetes is getting easier to live with, easier to manage.”
Reed, a champion Legends and Late Model driver in California, had just relocated from to North Carolina to work with Kyle Busch Motorsports when given the diagnosis. For a teenager with plans of becoming NASCAR’s next star, the news was devastating.
“It was the most difficult thing I had ever heard,” he said. “My dad had raced and I had been racing since I was four years old. In my eyes, I was going to be a NASCAR driver. For them to tell me just like that, it was over, that was unacceptable. I didn’t understand it.”
After going through the initial shock, Reed’s devastation turned to determination. With the support of his family, he returned to Southern California where he worked with a doctor who was a diabetes specialist.
She got him regulated where he was no longer losing weight. He was set up with a special diet and exercise program. In just a matter of months, he was able to get back in the race car.
He made 14 ARCA Series starts in 2012 with six top-10 finishes. He ran seven Nationwide Series races for car owner Jack Roush last season, including the Food City 250 at Bristol last August where he started 27th and finished 26th.
Reed has a couple of pieces of equipment in his car different from other drivers. One is a continuous glucose monitor, a wireless device taped to his body that monitors his blood sugar in real time. It gives him both information on his blood sugar at the moment as well as what it’s been doing over the past three hours.
It’s mounted on the dash of his race car along with water temperature and oil pressure gauges. One of his pit crew members is trained to come over the wall and to give him an insulin injection if needed. He also has high-sugar drink inside the car if his blood sugar gets low.
“Those are just safety nets for the worst-case scenarios,” Reed said. “But with a disease like diabetes, you have to have your bases covered.”
On the race track, the best laid plans often go astray.
There was no better example of that than his past Saturday at Daytona. Reed had completed the entire race with barely a scratch when his car was totaled in a last-lap crash.
“At Daytona, it’s hard to be frustrated,” he said. “I hate it for my guys who work so hard in the race shop. But, you see it at Daytona and Talladega where you have a huge pileup at the end. You just have to move on. At the end of the day, it’s all good.”