NASCAR: It’ll Take More Than Diabetes to Stop Ryan Reed And Roush

Ryan Reed fighting for his space in NASCAR

Ryan Reed fighting for his space in NASCAR

A rush of famous names have hit the Xfinity series lately and it’s undeniably added to the excitement of the stepping stone series. Many are the offspring of famous family members and have taken up much of the air in the NASCAR media rooms.

However, they aren’t the only game in town. Several new drivers that have had to drive their way into the public’s view are making moves in the most competitive Nationwide/Xfinity series in years.

One of those names is Ryan Reed, one of four drivers for Roush Fenway Racing in the series and one of the three building blocks to the storied team owners’ movement back to the front of the Cup field.

Ryan Reed came from a racing family, but not one that would get him an instant Papal audience. He currently sits fourth in the points and he’s earned every one of them. No one handed this kid a thing and he’s very open to admitting that he is on a very steep learning curve.

Reed’s teammates, Elliott Sadler, Chris Buescher and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace have much more experience than he. That fact hasn’t deterred him in the least. He knows where he has to improve and where he has to concentrate.

I had the opportunity to talk at length with the young Reed recently and I have to admit it was refreshing to hear a driver speak openly and without sounding as if he were reading cue cards.

25 races in 2014 is the most consistent run for the same team the young driver has ever been afforded. He has been fortunate to have obtained a sponsor, though not exactly as he had planned. Ryan Reed has Type 1 diabetes. At first, this seemed to be the end of his career.

Diabetes isn't stopping the most elite of athletes, especially Ryan Reed.

Diabetes isn’t stopping the most elite of athletes, especially Ryan Reed.

Eli Lilly and the American Diabetes Association stepped up to the plate to help bring awareness to the growing health problem in the modern world. What was a career ending negative became the one thing that has boosted this young drivers’ career.

Reed doesn’t run or make excuses for his 9th place finish in the 2014 Xfinity championship and he shouldn’t, he’s had limited and mixed series experience. This series is for those who intend to make it to the top and that’s just what he intends to do.

When asked about 2014 he states with conviction that he was on a learning curve and that, of course he was disappointed. He went into the off-season with a mission: To raise his game and to rally around his team who has the same desire.

Reed spent the off season working with his team developing that seemingly magical, yet elusive “chemistry” that these teams need to run at the front. According to Reed: “I couldn’t have a better teacher than Jack (Roush) and veterans like Elliott (Sadler) to work with in order to get the most out of what resources I’ve been given.

Everyone is open minded about what we have to do, especially on our 1.5 mile program, there’s no resting on our laurels, no past pride in it. We know what we have to do with engines, suspension and aero and that’s what we’re doing.”

Neither he, nor his team are stuck in the past. Reed expressed that they are very open minded about what has to be done. Reed added: “It’s always great to come off the truck fast, whether it’s NASCAR, Formula One or IndyCar, but we are willing to try new things to get to where we need to be.”

He went on to say, “On the other hand, just because something looks good on paper doesn’t mean it’s going to translate to the track, so we have to keep trying new things with a purpose in mind, although I remain cautiously optimistic.”

On that subject I posed the question of simulators, which in open wheel are part of the entire engineering package, and I was pleasantly surprised at Reed’s response: “Simulators at the Formula One level aren’t here yet in NASCAR, but they are coming. We use simulators now that are far more advanced than people might think. Ford has invested a ton of money into that technology and don’t think that these are Xbox type pieces of equipment; they require 5 to 10 engineers to operate and are quite complex.

All of the teams use simulator software for set-up but for the driving aspect of it, they are fairly new to NASCAR, but Ford will get us there. He added, “Races will be won and lost based on advanced simulators and simulator software, so we’re not there yet, but Ford is working heavily on it.”

Reed is one of only two top tier racing drivers that have Type 1 diabetes, the other is Charlie Kimball of IndyCar. Without going into the very technical side of Type 1 diabetes, the simple explanation is that it’s an auto-immune disease and he has to take insulin, diet doesn’t work.

The way he handles this problem is to minimize it. He has a radio frequency transmitter embedded into his abdomen that emits a signal to a dash mount LED monitor. This measures his blood glucose levels in order to keep him at peak levels of performance.

And yes, they have a plan if it falls to dangerous levels during a race.

So far it hasn’t been used, however on the off-chance that his blood glucose levels aren’t correct, he can see this from the dash mounted monitor and on a pit stop one of the crew, who has been trained to perform this, can inject him with an insulin stick. Amazing.

According to Reed, his confidence is growing and once that reaches a tipping point level, that is when you have your break out season.

His confidence level and intelligence seemed high to me. I would not be surprised to see this young man break out and win more races before the end of the 2015 season.

 

We find Ryan Reed an interesting young man and intend to check in with him periodically during the 2015 season.

 

 

 

 

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