“This is definitely a lot different than golf,” Kelli Kuehne exclaimed as she stood in the bustling IZOD IndyCar Series garage area at Texas Motor Speedway.
Kuehne, a Dallas native and avid race fan, spent the afternoon learning about the ins and outs of the IZOD IndyCar Series with Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing driver Charlie Kimball.
Minutes later, the LPGA Tour pro suited up to take a high-speed ride on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater with Mario Andretti as the chaueffer.
Both share having diabetes. Kuehne was diagnosed at age 10 and carries an insulin pump as a means to regulate her blood sugar levels. She credits technology and the input of doctors as her way to stay on top of the disease. Kimball was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007, and after doctors gave him clearance to keep racing he relies on the technology available through his sponsor to maintain his blood sugar levels.
As a fellow professional athlete, Kuehne identifies with Kimball but also is sympathetic.
“Charlie’s out there going 225 mph. I’m on the green for 5-6 hours,” she said. “I can eat an apple going from the tee to the green or the green to the fairway. Charlie has to drive a car, push buttons, shift gears and worry about getting sugar water or Gatorade in his system. We both are athletes, we both do something very different, but we still have very similar things going on.”
Both see the responsibility and opportunity to inform and encourage people with diabetes and educate the public about the warning signs. Kimball’s desire is to let people know that diabetes doesn’t have to “slow you down.”
“You can still dream big and follow your dreams, even with diabetes,” he said.
“Getting the word out is my big platform,” said Kuehne. “I’m in the position to reach more people than the average person and I love to take that initiative and impact the lives of people.”