DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Charlie Kimball believed he was headed to his first podium finish in IndyCar when a mechanical failure ended his day 10 laps short of the finish at Baltimore last season. Furious when he got out of the car, a young fan suffering from diabetes gave Kimball some perspective.
"I get out of the car and I am getting ready to go nuclear, and this boy comes up to me and says, `Hi! You have diabetes? I do too, will you sign my meter?'" Kimball recalled Friday. "The race is still going on and it occurs to me, `Good day, bad day, ugly day at the track – no matter what happens, the fact that I am out there racing is a win for a lot of people.'"
Chip Ganassi Racing is getting behind Kimball's bid to raise diabetes awareness by partnering with sponsor Novo Nordisk and the Race with Insulin program across all of its platforms.
Kimball, who was 22 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007, races in the IndyCar Series for Ganassi with Novo Nordisk as his sponsor. He'll have that traditional Race with Insulin paint scheme during the weekend of April 5-7 at Barber Motorsports Park, while Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray uses the same livery on his Sprint Cup car at Martinsville Speedway.
In addition, all of Ganassi's cars in IndyCar, NASCAR and Grand-Am will race with blue rims to help launch the "Race with Insulin Unites" campaign. The rims simulate the blue circle that is the International Diabetes Foundation's global symbol.
"If our team can help others understand that even with diabetes, you can live life to the fullest, then we are glad to help," said team owner Chip Ganassi. "Charlie is an emerging talent in the race car, and he is an even better human being. A program like this speaks volumes about him."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 26 million people are currently living with diabetes in the U.S.
Kimball, who is entering his third season with Ganassi, was diagnosed while seeing a doctor for a skin rash in England. The doctor asked if anything else was going on with Kimball, who replied he'd been excessively thirsty but figured a change in diet would correct the problem.
The doctor weighed Kimball, who noticed he'd lost 25 pounds over a five day period. Kimball was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and was in a London hospital using the Novo Nordisk products within days. It made Kimball, through his IndyCar participation, the perfect ambassador.
Kimball is able to compete through a doctor-approved program that revolves around diet and exercise. He uses a pre-filled insulin pen and a continuous glucose monitor.
"I try to share my message by first leading through example and secondarily by getting information and awareness out there," Kimball said. "It's important that I keep making the message of `I am successful and I have diabetes.' It's not `I am successful but,' or `I am successful despite,' or `I am successful instead of." It's just `My name is Charlie, I am 27 years old and I have diabetes.' "
Kimball as an ambassador for a cause has learned a lot from watching McMurray, who through his foundation promotes awareness of autism. And in 2011, McMurray visited Joplin, Mo., following a devastating tornado and has been committed to assisting in the rebuild of his hometown.
It made McMurray a perfect fit to participate in the Race with Insulin campaign, and McMurray seemed genuinely humbled to be included.
"This is a great story and a great cause," he said. "From my standpoint, whether it's with autism or the Joplin tornado, I've been asked numerous times if you'd rather be known as a great race car driver or a great human being. Being a great race car driver is a goal, ultimately when your time on this earth is over you want to be known as being a great person. So to be able to get involved with causes like this is really special, and I feel really honored to be able to help Charlie and be part of his team."
The Ganassi origination is unique in that the team competes in three national series, giving sponsors an opportunity to reach many markets and fan bases.
"It's really incredible what Chip's team is able to offer to different partners to not only be part of the NASCAR program on the Martinsville weekend, but he has something to tie into Grand-Am and IndyCar, as well," McMurray said. "It's something no other organization is able to do."