Ryan Reed recently won his second NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona, but to understand how he got to this point, you have to know more about Ryan Reed, the person, not just the race car driver.
Backtrack six years to 2011. Reed, a California native, is getting ready to move to foreign lands, otherwise known as Charlotte, North Carolina, a hub of NASCAR racing. Beforehand, Reed heads to his doctor to have some symptoms checked — among them weight loss and fatigue.
In the doctor’s office that fateful day, Reed received a life-changing diagnosis. He had type 1 diabetes. Hearing that he’d never race again was crushing, but Reed was not one to give up easily. Instead, he was determined to find a way to chase his dream. After all, racing had been in his blood since age four.
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Reed used his no-quit attitude to his advantage and, according to Tracy Neithercott, sought out Dr. Anne Peters of the University of Southern California. Peters told Reed what he wanted to hear: he could race. However, it would require effort, dedication, and change.
For starters, Reed had to follow a strict insulin management program. Additionally, he uses a CGM, Continuous Glucose Monitor, which does exactly as it sounds: monitors his glucose levels. Reed also exercises daily and follows a strict diet. Both things give him the best chance to continue to race, following his boyhood dream.
“This sponsorship is another step forward in our drive to help more people who have the disease or care for someone who does.”
— Mike Mason, Lilly Diabetes Vice President
The aforementioned CGM is not a handheld device or attached to his fire suit. Rather, it’s attached to the dashboard of his №16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, just like his tachometer and water and oil pressure gauges.
If his glucose spikes during a race, he has options. First, he could drink a sugar, energy like drink. The second option involves an insulin injection. Reed can simply use his in-car radio to let his pit crew know he needs a shot of insulin. An opening in his fire suit allows a crew member easy access to give him the shot so that the team does not lose precious seconds on the racetrack.
Reed’s taken all the necessary steps to ensure his diabetes is managed on the race track. Not only is he getting results on the track, but his sponsor is unique to his condition.
Lilly Diabetes introduced the first commercial insulin in 1923 and remains one of the leading providers of diabetes care. Ninety years after introducing commercial insulin, Lilly began to sponsor Reed in 2013, when he entered a limited number of events in the XFINITY Series in the Roush Fenway Racing №16 Ford.
The partnership has continued since 2013 with Reed going to Gatorade Victory Lane two times in the XFINITY Series with Lilly Diabetes on the hood. Both times (2015 & 2017) were at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, the biggest race of the season on the NASCAR circuit.
Last season, Reed advanced to the Round of Eight in the new XFINITY Series Chase (now called playoffs) and finished sixth in the final standings. In October 2016, Lilly announced a new, multi-year deal with Reed.
Both parties expressed excitement about the new partnership. Lilly Diabetes Vice President Mike Mason said, “This sponsorship is another step forward in our drive to help more people who have the disease or care for someone who does,” while Reed mentioned that together he and the company would “continue to share the message about diabetes awareness, specifically the importance of talking to doctors as well as proper nutrition and daily exercise.”
On Thursday, March 3rd, Lilly announced that it had expanded its partnership with NASCAR to become the Official Diabetes Health Partner of NASCAR. The company will not only continue its sponsor of Reed’s №16 Ford, but will now launch initiatives across NASCAR to educate fans on health and wellness initiatives, and facts about diabetes.
It’s the best of both worlds for Reed and the company. Reed has been able to continue to race and score two victories at Daytona International Speedway, while Lilly Diabetes has found a driver who identifies with their organization and has helped them expand their reach in NASCAR.