FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s a big weekend at Texas Motor Speedway as the IndyCar Series returns to the track.
Among the drivers racing Saturday is 26-year-old Charlie Kimball, the first ever diabetic driver in the series.
On the track, Kimball can reach speeds over 220 miles an hour, but in 2007, the IndyCar driver felt like his life came to a crashing halt. His doctor diagnosed him with Type One Diabetes.
“When he said you have to take insulin and inject it, I said wait with a needle?! Because I don’t do needles,” he said with a laugh, “My first fear was that I wouldn’t get back in the racecar.”
That year, Kimball was forced to quit racing midseason, but was determined to get back behind the wheel, eventually.
“From that moment I had a goal in mind, I wanted to get back in the racecar because that was the only place I felt alive,” he said. “To get back in the car, it gave me a goal to work towards, a road to drive down so to speak, to get healthy and get it under control.”
He did just that, but it has taken some adjustments, not only to his lifestyle but to his car.
“I’ve got a continuous monitor that velcros to my steering wheel so I can keep an eye on my blood sugar just like I keep an eye on the speed of the car,” he explained. “If that shows me going low, I’ve got a drink bottle mounted in the car full of orange juice, the tube runs right into my helmet. I can drink it without ever taking my hands off the wheel and I don’t have to stop.”
Kimball is now learning to live with the disease, and he’s doing so with the help of another professional athlete, golf pro Kelli Kuehne.
“If you manage your disease you can do whatever the heck you want,” Kuehne said, “You’re going to have obstacles but that’s true with anything.”
Kuehne was diagnosed with Diabetes at 10-years-old, the same age the professional golfer took up her sport.
“I don’t know golf without being diabetic, so that’s the beauty of my situation,” she said. “Fourteen years on the tour, it’s been a lot of fun, some days are more challenging than others, just like being diabetic.”
“While I was only diagnosed four years ago, she’s had it a lot longer than I have,” Kimball said, “and she’s been playing golf professionally for almost 15 years now.”
Although the two are in very different athletic fields, their message is the same. They hope to inspire other Diabetics to not let the disease put the brakes on life.
“It doesn’t have to get in the way of your life’s goals, your passions, your dreams,” Kimball said. “You can do almost anything you want in life with diabetes.”