When the classes at St. Mary School emptied out Wednesday afternoon, the kids who walked home along Buffalo Grove Road were treated to a noisy spectacle: professional stock car driver Ryan Reed fired up his machine and peeled out.
The 20-year-old California native, who drives the No. 16 Ford on NASCAR’s Nationwide circuit, was at the nearby Walgreens with a camera crew to film a webisode of his cross-country adventures.
Reed and his car are sponsored by Walgreens, which has proved to be a strong partnership because the driver has been battling diabetes since he was 17.
On Wednesday, he spent about 20 minutes in the store at Lake Cook and Buffalo Grove roads perfecting a scripted interaction with Veronica Arismendis, the Walgreens cashier whom the crew picked to be Reed’s film partner. The filming then went outside, overlooking the busy intersection in the heart of Buffalo Grove.
Once the crew had all its shots, Reed started the massive engine, unleashing a roar that brought wild looks from the kids across the street.
During an interview with Pioneer Press, Reed drove home his commitment to winning races and educating kids about proper nutrition.
Q: You’re a professional driver, but everyone gets honked at from time to time. What’s it like for you when some guy in a minivan honks at you?
A: You separate it pretty well. You get most of your aggression out on the race track. But, a lot of my friends are drivers, as well. Sometimes, when four of us are in a car at once, we’ll tear up the people around us. It’s like we’re driving snobs, if you will.
Q: You had to film this whole webisode in your fire-resistant driving suit — what’s it like in there?
A: You get stared at a little bit. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world. But, it’s a part of the show.
Q: You race ‘stock cars,’ but what you have out there is far from a stock car. What do you like to drive in your personal life? Who’s putting good stock cars on the streets?
A: It’s pretty easy, because I drive a Ford F-150, and I drive a Ford on the track. If I could have anything, I’d probably drive a Mustang. But, honestly, I’d probably just get myself into more trouble.
Q: What attracted you to racing?
A: Definitely my dad. He was a driver. He bought me my first go-kart to start me racing when I was 4, and it’s been my passion ever since.
Q: For the majority of the world, this is something on their TV screen. What is it like as a job?
A: It’s exhausting. You’re so busy. You’re always on the road, you rarely have a lot of time to settle down. Nine months out of the years, we’re at a race track.
Q: How has diabetes affected you?
A: It’s been a pretty big transition. It’s kind of hard to remember life without diabetes now. It’s a lot more paying attention to my diet, shots, doctor visits.
Q: Being on a pro circuit means back-and-forth relationships with sponsors. Today, you’re an actor and a pitchman. How do you make it fit in?
A: I’ve been really fortunate, because we’ve been able to create a diabetes platform. I get to talk about something that means a lot to me. It’s not forced. A lot of drivers have to learn a lot about their sponsors. Mine, they’re part of my everyday life.
Q: If you could get Walgreens to give you anything here as a thank-you, what would you go for?
A: Food, probably. I see some Lunchables over there right now.