BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – When a racer is told they will never be able to race again, you instantly think that’s the end of the story.
Not so for NASCAR Nationwide Series young gun Ryan Reed.
Reed, 20, is currently halfway through his rookie campaign in the Nationwide Series for Roush Fenway Racing, and is coming off of a season-best fourth place finish just three races ago at the historic Daytona International Speedway. However, that is far from where the Bakersfield, California native’s story begins.
Reed grew up in Bakersfield and had a passion for racing from a very young age, beginning his career at age 5 and rising to prominence after winning the US Legend Cars track championship at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (now the Irwindale Speedway) in 2009, when he was just 14 years old. After Reed won Rookie of the Year honors the following year in the Super Late Model division, becoming the youngest-ever recipient of the honor at Irwindale, the stage was set for a rapid ascent to the top levels of motorsports for the California teenager.
And then everything changed.
While he was competing in Super Late Models in 2010 and in the process of relocating to North Carolina to work with then-up-and-coming Kyle Busch Motorsports, Reed was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after noticing lack of energy, weight loss, and thirst that he couldn’t quench. Though the young driver was no stranger to the kind of wear that racing can cause on the body, Ryan had a gut feeling that these symptoms were something more than just competition-based.
After the diagnosis, the words that Reed was dreading came down from doctors. The young upstart was told he would never race again.
“When the doctors told me I wasn’t going to be able to race again, I think I was numb for about a second,” Reed said of the earliest hospital visits. “After that though, it was all about finding information, you know, ‘What can I do to be able to race again? What options do I have?’ That was the mindset that I took into this, that it was beatable and I was going to do it.”
Reed’s mentality paid off. Through advances in insulin-reading technology and a rigorous training schedule and diet, Reed has kept his health in top shape and received clearance from NASCAR to return to the race track. After a short stint in the K&N Pro Series East in 2011 and a near-full campaign in the ARCA Racing Series in 2012 that nearly resulted in a win at Chicagoland, Reed was ready to blaze a trail where no one like him had before: NASCAR’s top three series.
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