“I was pretty full of myself, was doing well and winning races, on cloud-nine,” he says.
Then in February of 2011, Reed was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D).
“When I was diagnosed, I was really humbled, especially when they told me I wasn’t going to be able to race again,” he says. “I was devastated and really just, I thought I was invincible and then to learn that my dream was going to be taken away.”
Reed says it was heartbreaking at the time and caused him to grow up quickly.
“I thought I could sit there, pout and throw a tantrum till I got my way,” he continues. “Then I realized that’s not going to beat this. I need to – I got to take a step back and think about it. I just decided that if there was anything I could do to put myself back behind the wheel of a race car, then that’s what I was going to do.”
He started learning more about the disease, finding other athletes who continued in their sport after being diagnosed.
“I learned how common it was so I knew there’s got to be a race car driver with this,” he says. “The only driver I could find was Charlie Kimball and he’s an IndyCar driver, so I was like, ‘Well, there’s no reason I can’t do it’ so I found out more about him.”
He then learned of Kimball’s doctor Ann Peters and got in contact with her.
“I had a doctor at the time, but I just wanted to talk to Ann to see what she had to say,” she says. “So I went in there, not expecting anything and she wanted to have me as her patient.”
Through a conversation with Peters, he discovered that if he worked at it, he would have a future in racing.
“She just said you need to do what I tell you and be diligent with it and this isn’t ever going to quick, get easier – you may learn how to control it, but that’s just about it,” he says. “It’s never going to go away and I was like okay.”
Since then, Reed has learned how to handle the disease and has a continued to move up the racing ladder.
Earlier this year at Daytona International Speedway, the 18-year-old competed in his first ARCA Racing Series event with Venturini Motorsports.
[media-credit name=”Ryan Reed Racing” align=”alignright” width=”266″][/media-credit]“It’s been really fun,” he says of the season so far. “Daytona, we had a really good run going, ran second most of the day, then just ran out of fuel with just under 10 to go. I mean, what do you do then? Daytona kind of the gamble anyways.”
Last week, he finished 12th after being spun late in the race and now sits sixth in points, 55 points behind leader Cale Gale.
“Seemed like we had a good strategy and with 30 to go, we had new tires,” he says. “We were working our way to top 10, passing someone for 11th or 12th and had a really good car, and got spun out. That kind of ruined our day. We were able to battle our way back up to 12th, but that didn’t show our effort from the whole day and the whole weekend. We qualified fifth and felt like we had one of the cars to beat.”
The deal came together with Venturini Motorsports after he raced a late model race at Martinsville Speedway.
“When I was 15, I started racing super late models on the west coast and had a really successful year,” the Bakersfield, California native says. “We decided we wanted to go try to race late models on the east coast because if you can go to the east coast and make a name in late model racing, then you’ve really done something. So we packed up, I moved out there.
“I was racing a late model at Martinsville and I qualified 10th my first time there, which 80 plus cars show up every year to try and qualify for 43 spots. Billy Venturini was there, saw it and came over and said, ‘I wanna talk to you about driving one of my cars next year’ and the rest is history.”
So far the experience at Venturini Motorsports has been wonderful.
“Bill and Billy were drivers themselves behind the wheel and it’s really cool to be with a group rich in history behind the wheel,” he says. “It feels like family to me. They’re so welcoming. Anytime I have a problem on and off the track, their open arms and ready to listen. They’ve just been great to work with and I really feel like this year is going to be a really positive experience with them.”
The 2012 season marks an important year for Venturini Motorsports as it’s their 30th anniversary. Reed says that for this year, he would like to win a championship for them, well winning some races and scoring top-five finishes.
“They’ve had a lot of history and great drivers come through their program,” he adds.
Five years down the road, he hopes to be competing at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level.
“I mean, there’s no question in my mind,” he comments. “That’s where I wanna be and I’m not going to settle for anything less. It’s not an easy road and I definitely didn’t pick an easy sport to break into and be successful at so I know all the challenges. NASCAR has been supportive, especially of the disease. They’ve already cleared me medical wise to race in the Sprint Cup Series so I feel like if I have no restrictions. If I want this, I can go out and get this.”
Reed got started in racing at a young age through his father.
“I come from a racing family,” he says. “My dad raced forever, since he was a little kid. He got me into go-karts when I was four and been there ever since.”
Due to the influence of his father on the racing side, he says that his racing hero is his father.
“I’ve watched my dad and just his style of racing and his approach to the sport,” he says. “It’s just always meant a lot to me and helped me through the years.
“There’s a lot of guys that I look up to – Kyle Busch, on the track, he’s so impressive. We watched him at Daytona do what no one else has ever done in the Budweiser Shootout. There’s quite a few guys I look up to and just try and learn the positives.”
In 2009, Reed won the Legends Division Track Championship at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. The following season, he became the Super Late Model Division Rookie of the Year while becoming the youngest winner in the division when he scored one win.
In 2011, Reed raced a variety of cars, including the Pro Allstars Series, NASCAR Whelen All American and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East
“I’ve really been fortunate to be an advocate for JDRF and having my own foundation to really turn it into a positive,” he says.
JDRF is the world’s largest funding provider for research towards curing, treating and preventing T1D and its complications.
Reed formed Ryan’s Mission, a non-profit organization to help build awareness, become a role model and positively touch the lives of others.
If given the chance, Reed says that he wouldn’t change anything that has happened.
“It’s not really something that I’d think about changing now,” he says. “I’ve been able to do a lot of positive with it and really positively touch so many lives that it’s hard to say that if I had to chance to undo this, I would.”