CONCORD — It’s not often I get a chance to interview a professional athlete. So when the opportunity came about to talk to Xfinity Series racer Ryan Reed, I jumped at the opportunity.
Ryan grew up in Bakersfield, California and started racing go-karts at the age of four.
“When I started racing, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
Reed’s dad was a racer, so maybe it was the racing blood that flowed through his veins.
“Bakersfield was a really popular place for motorsports. I just raced all around there,” Reed said.
Before his Xfinity Series career began, Ryan had to climb the racing ladder that so many before him have done. Reed hit the ARCA Series and in one year, he had the opportunity to drive for Roush-Fenway Racing.
“When I got into the ARCA Series, that was a really high level of racing. That’s when you start racing on the super speedways you see us racing on now,” said Reed.
Reed, 22, who is one of three Xfinity series drivers for Roush-Fenway Racing, rose to stardom quickly after winning the 2015 season-opener at Daytona with a last-lap pass of Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski.
“It’s hard to put into words what that place (Daytona) means to a driver. Everyone has a shot to win there but it’s so difficult. Everything has to go right that day,” said Reed.
Everything did go right on Feb. 21, 2015 when the youngster was the first to cross the finish line, scoring his first win at the most iconic track in any NASCAR series.
“It was overwhelming. I did a burnout and I looked up to see the crowd. It was an amazing place,” he said. “Just to stand in victory lane to celebrate with my family, it was really cool.”
What a lot of fans may not know about Ryan is that he has his own battle off of the racetrack as well.
Reed was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2011.
“It was really tough. The toughest part of the diagnoses was telling me I would never race again,” Ryan said. “I had my sights set on NASCAR, I was winning a lot of late model races and progressing really well. And then to hear I have diabetes, it was really frustrating.”
After shaking off the initial disappointment, Ryan decided to visit with a doctor in California that had worked with other athletes that competed in their respective sports while also battling diabetes.
“It’s amazing to see all these different athletes with diabetes that aren’t letting it hold them back,” Reed added.
Thanks to proper medication and nutrition, Ryan was able to turn potential disappointment into another hurdle that he was able to conquer. Now, Reed wants to spread his message of success and beating the odds to his fans.
“I am going to do everything I can to spread a positive message and tell kids that they can do anything they want even if they have diabetes,” he said. “It’s just one of those things I feel really comfortable with now. At the end of the day, I want to make sure I can compete at 100 percent. I don’t want that to ever be an excuse.”
Ryan says being a racer doesn’t keep him from waking up every day like any other person and managing his diabetes any other way. He makes sure to keep up with his insulin injections and checks his sugar often throughout the day.
The young driver certainly has a bright future ahead and is hoping to secure a ride in the Sprint Cup Series one day.
“I want to be the first driver ever with Type One Diabetes to win a Sprint Cup Championship. My goal is to race in the Sprint Cup. That’s what it was as a kid and it hasn’t changed,” Ryan said. “I’ll just continue to get better and compete and try to win races, and the rest will take care of itself. I’m 22-years-old, I’m just blessed to be where I’m at right now and have the opportunities I have.”
The next time you tune in to an Xfinity Series race, look for the #16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang. He’ll probably be running near the front, trying to keep reaching for his lifelong goals and continue living that childhood dream.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.