GRAND PRIX: Indycar driver talks managing diabetes at 235 mph

By Melissa Eichman, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, March 09, 2017, 6:05 PM EST

Like every other driver competing in this weekend's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Verizon IndyCar series driver Charlie Kimball has his sights set on crossing the finish line first.

Unlike other drivers, however, Kimball's race preparation involves a little more planning and equipment, as he suffers from diabetes.

  • Kimball diagnosed with diabetes in 2007
  • Kimball and pit crew monitor his blood sugar levels while he's racing
  • Team uses specialized equipment to monitor levels from pit lane

Kimball was diagnosed with diabetes in 2007. At the time, he wasn't sure he could continue his racing career.

Ten years later, he's still behind the wheel, driving the number 83 car for Chip Ganassi Racing.

"The mechanics spend so much time making sure the race car is ready to go, and with diabetes it’s even more important that I spend that same amount of effort and time into my body making that sure my blood sugar is where I want it I have the right nutrition," said Kimball. “It starts from the moment I get up in the morning, when I’m having breakfast, taking my insulin, managing my blood sugar so that when I get in the car, all I’m thinking about is driving and hopefully winning.”

Kimball has specialized equipment to help him and his pit crew monitor his blood sugar while he's racing at speeds up to 235 miles per hour, all without having to take his hands off the wheel.

"I have a sensor on my body and it transmits to a display wall," said Kimball. "The display’s plugged into the car’s data system so on my dash right here I’ve got speed, lap time, oil pressure, blood sugar, water temperature, gear, my car and body data right there together. Not only can I see it in the race car, but my engineers and mechanics can see it in pit lane, as well."

Proper hydration is another concern. While most drivers have one drink bottle in their cars. Kimball has two.

"One full of water to stay hydrated and a second one is full of orange juice with extra sugar in it," said Kimball. "Those two bottles come together in a valve that’s mounted right on my seatbelt. From that valve a tube runs into my helmet, just like a long straw."

The green flag for Kimball and all the other Indycar drivers in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is set to drop at 12:52 p.m. Sunday.