NASCAR’s Nationwide Series will be under the Friday night lights at Richmond International Raceway, with relatively unknown rookie Ryan Reed making his first of five scheduled starts in the No. 16 car for Roush Fenway Racing. Reed’s journey to a desired Nationwide Series ride, though, is not without peril.
The Bakersfield, California native was born into racing, and incredibly fast from the get-go. With his opportunity calling, Reed was able to get a late model development deal with Kyle Busch Motorsports, ensuring he was beginning a journey to the top. But Reed began losing weight incredibly fast, and experienced extreme thirst as well as frequent urination. The 17-year-old was immediately diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a common ailment that despite not being life threatening made racing nearly impossible for the rising star.
Yet, there was hope. Despite never having met in person, Reed looked up to fellow diabetes patient and IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball. The same doctor that treats Kimball was able to clear Ryan to race again. Despite his age, the young man was able to secure sponsorship from the American Diabetes Association as well as the Drive to Stop Diabetes program.
Venturini Motorsports gave Reed his first legitimate chance last year in the ARCA series, which works as an unofficial farm system to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In 19 races, Reed scored one top five and ran consistently all year long.
With everything falling back in place on and off the track, all Reed needed was an opportunity to advance his career, and overcome his adversity so brilliantly it was almost as if it never happened. Enter Jack Roush, one of the most successful car owners in NASCAR history, and reigning series championship owner.
Ryan Reed has earned his opportunity. He scored a top 10 finish at Iowa Motor Speedway, a slightly larger and faster track that can be compared to the Richmond International Raceway track Reed will face Friday night. The teen prospect is already looking forward to the possibility of a full time 2014 season.
First though, he must once again overcome adversity. He has never raced at Richmond, one of the most difficult and unique tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Reed has never run a race over two hours, and it is entirely possible he will need an insulin injection, although he has never needed one in his racing career. Also, since he is in an additional Roush Fenway Racing car, he must qualify the car on time, putting a substantial amount of pressure on the driver.
So far though, Reed has performed admirably. He was 15th fastest in first practice, and paced his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Travis Pastrana and Trevor Bayne, both who have run Richmond before in a Nationwide Series car.
Ryan Reed is off to a great start. If he makes the field for Friday’s race he will become the first NASCAR driver to race with diabetes, an incredible feat in himself. The Roush Fenway team will not only be monitoring Reed’s lap times and blood sugar Friday night, but hopefully his progress towards the front of the field.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486