From the driver’s seat with Ryan Reed: Enjoying the West Coast swing

By Ryan Reed, NASCAR XFINITY Series Driver

The last time I checked in I was preparing to ride along in a F-16 aircraft with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at Nellis Air Force Base in Vegas. I am happy to report I kept my lunch down and did not experience motion sickness during the ride.  What an incredible experience. I started out the day with hours of briefing and training to learn how to handle the G-forces inside the cockpit. They taught me everything from how to breathe in the aircraft to where to position my arms.

I ended up spending about an hour in the air and experienced 9 G’s. I can’t even describe what your body feels like under that kind of pressure. I didn’t black out, but I did “gray out,” as they call it – your vision starts going away, but you catch yourself before a blackout.  Roush Fenway put together a pretty cool video from my ride, spoofing the movie Top Gun.  I am so grateful for what the U.S. Air Force, the Thunderbirds and our military do for our country and for that amazing experience. It’s definitely the coolest thing I have ever done outside of driving a racecar for a living.

Speaking of driving the racecar, we had a pretty good run at Vegas. Our car was definitely better than 13th, but we had to make an unscheduled pit stop to remove trash from the grille. While we really deserved a top-10 finish, it was encouraging to see the speed the car had.

Before the Phoenix race, I headed to Tucson to speak to a group of Lilly Diabetes sales managers. I always enjoy hanging out with the Lilly folks and had a great time celebrating their 2015 accomplishments. They launched four new products in 2015, which is huge.  Race-wise I thought Phoenix could have gone better. We fought a tight-handling car all weekend and made huge improvements, but just ran out of time to find the speed we needed in the race.

I can’t wait to go home this weekend to California. Auto Club Speedway is about two hours from my hometown of Bakersfield and I grew up going to races at the track. It’s really special to have my friends and family out at the track with me and I really just love racing there. The racing at Fontana is, in my opinion, the best it’s ever been. The track has worn just right and the seams make it a challenge every lap. I would be super sad if they ever thought of paving this place because it’s a true gem. We had a solid 11th-place finish here last year, but we had a top-10 car. It would be awesome to win here in front of the hometown crowd, but consistency is what we need in the long run and there’s no reason we can’t perform well here.

Post-Fontana I plan on heading back to Charlotte to get some things done around the house and just relax. With two weeks off, it’s easy to lose focus but I’m sure by next weekend I will be eager to get back behind the wheel of my No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang.

Image: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

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Ryan is the driver of the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. A winner at Daytona International Speedway in 2015, Ryan also is a native from Bakersfield, CA and a former Legends Division Track Champion at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. Diagnosed in 2011 with type 1 diabetes, Ryan is leading the charge in the Drive to Stop Diabetes campaign.