Diabetes Download: Charlie Kimball, first licensed driver with diabetes to win an IndyCar race
Updated: Mar 19
Since my diagnosis, I have lived with the mindset that I can do anything. I am a huge advocate for making diabetes work for me and showing that a life can be well-lived with good control. I find so much inspiration in other type 1’s breaking down barriers and was therefore honored when given the opportunity to chat with Charlie Kimball, the first licensed driver with diabetes to win an IndyCar race. Life doesn’t slow down because of diabetes and there is no one who knows that better than Charlie, literally. Charlie began his racing career in 2002, but his career came to a screeching halt in 2007 with his diagnosis of Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes. He initially presented midseason with a skin rash, a rare symptom that, at times, can lead to misdiagnosis. Thankfully this was not the case for Charlie who weighed in at the doctor’s office 25lbs lighter than on the track 5 days before. This, in addition to his frequent thirst and urination, were telling signs of his type 1 onset. Once diagnosed, he really didn’t know what to expect, but I could tell while speaking with Charlie that he never considered quitting. Racing was his dream. “Getting back into the cockpit was motivation in itself,” he explained. It didn’t matter that it had never been done before, Charlie was back in the cockpit 3 months after diagnosis with a podium finish. What an inspiration!
Charlie’s return to racing was not without hard work, dedication, and some awesome technology. “My @dexcom G6 (continuous glucose monitor) is plugged into the car’s data system. I can see it right on the steering wheel next to my speed, lap time, and oil pressure.” Most cars have special water bottles to help the racers stay hydrated. Charlie has two bottles, one with water and one with orange juice with added sugar. The two bottles come together at a 3D printed valve designed by Charlie’s father, IndyCar engineer and legend Gordon Kimball. This valve mounts on his seatbelt and allows Charlie to switch back and forth between the two bottles with just a flick of a switch.