Blood glucose monitor? That's right.
Peer into the cockpit of Indy Lights championship contender Charlie Kimball's race car and located on the steering wheel -- alongside the conventional digital readouts that give feedback on the car's performance -- a gauge showing his blood glucose level is every bit as critical to his race day. And ultimately to that of his competitors.
The only driver with Type 1 Diabetes competing at such a high level of motorsports, Kimball drives an Andretti Autosport car outfitted with a high-tech monitoring system to make sure the 25-year-old's body is functioning properly and maintaining safe levels of blood sugar -- transmitting the information from a sensor implanted in Kimball's abdomen.
This one-of-a-kind combination of medical marvel and mechanical savvy is enough to impress the most accomplished of racing minds. And, in fact, it does.
Kimball's father, Gordon, a world-renowned Formula One design engineer and Indy 500-winning car designer during the 1980s, couldn't be more proud of how his son is managing this disease and thriving despite it.
"You're always glad when your children succeed and find something they love doing,'' Gordon Kimball said. "But in some ways, I'm more proud with how he's dealt with the diabetes.
"Racing was his choice. Diabetes wasn't. And he's never let it get him down.''
In a sport built around great father-son legacies, the Kimballs offer a refreshing twist to the usual like-father, like-son generations of race drivers -- the Unsers, the Andrettis, the Rahals -- on this Father's Day weekend.
Gordon Kimball co-designed the Chaparral 2K that Johnny Rutherford drove to victory in the 1980 Indianapolis 500 and then worked in Europe with two legendary Formula One operations, the world champion McLaren and Ferrari teams.
Gordon's specialty was making race cars go fast. His son's specialty is driving them fast.
But Gordon ultimately made the decision that being a daily part of his son's life trumped a lucrative, globe-trotting career on the Formula One circuit. Because family was more important to him, Gordon returned to his central California avocado farm, where he and his wife Nancy have raised Charlie and his older sister Rachael; where even in the years since the move, the impacts of Gordon Kimball's decision strongly resonate.
It was a lesson in making difficult choices and managing the circumstances you can control in life. It's a lesson that hasn't been lost on his son -- that sometimes the right decision is the tough decision.
After being diagnosed with diabetes, it would have been far easier for Charlie Kimball to give up racing and use a deferred admittance to Stanford, where he was accepted into the engineering program.
But he's chosen to use his very promising racing career as an outlet to help others.
"You know when people find out I have diabetes their typical reaction is, 'I'm sorry to hear that,' ''' Kimball said.
"My response is, 'I'm not.'
"I'm probably a better person, better athlete because of it. It's really given me an opportunity to have a better perspective on life.''
"And life is very good at the moment.''
Kimball, who was diagnosed with diabetes in October of 2007, has scored runner-up finishes in three of the season's four Firestone Indy Lights Series races -- including last month in his debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where his father enjoyed such success.
He is second in the season championship standings entering the weekend's race at Iowa Speedway and seizing his opportunity as part of the high-profile Andretti Autosport team owned by former IndyCar champion Michael Andretti.
"You don't really think about him (Kimball) having diabetes,'' said Andretti, son of racing legend Mario and father to IndyCar driver Marco.
"He pushes himself as hard as any driver physically and is completely focused on winning races and competing for a championship.
"His story is great and I think he does a terrific job educating people on how they can keep living the life they want to live. But at the track, it never crosses your mind."
In the two seasons since he discovered he had diabetes, Kimball proudly says he's never even been close to having a problem or flare-up in the car.
He has a team of nutritionists and doctors who have put him on a strict regimen of physical fitness and dietary management. He administers five to seven shots of insulin to himself a day. And he has an emergency supply of high-sugar orange juice hooked up in the cockpit in case of any problems during a race.
A visual alarm will flash on the steering monitor should the blood glucose reading become even marginally problematic.
"I do my job before I even get in the car,'' Kimball explained of his dietary and physical preparation.
"I do keep my eye on the (blood glucose reading) during the race, but it's really a matter of monitoring it. I've never needed it as a reactive measure.
"When I get in the race car I don't want to be thinking about diabetes. I want to be thinking about racing.''
Ironically, his racing is helping everyone else think about diabetes, in part because his car is sponsored by Novo Nordisk, a company that specializes in diabetes care and manufacturers the insulin he uses and the FlexPen device used to administer it.
"I think diabetes was lucky to have him, in an odd way,'' Kimball's primary doctor, Dr. Anne Peters told ESPN earlier this season.
"I don't wish anyone to have it, but he's going to help people understand the disease.''
Peters, who heads the clinical diabetes program at the University of Southern California, has also treated other athletes with diabetes, including Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, Jr.
Kimball said he's unaware of any other race car drivers currently competing with the condition. But then again, according to a 2006 study by the National Institutes of Health, one-third of adults with type 1 diabetes are currently undiagnosed.
Kimball's own revelation was a complete shock. He visited the doctor because he had a skin rash, underwent tests and within hours received the troubling news.
As it turned out, Kimball's father was already en route to London -- where Kimball lived at the time -- to accompany him to his Formula Ford race in Portugal later that week.
The same man who had introduced him to racing, tuned his go-karts, invested in his race cars, and made trans-Atlantic trips to cheer him on professionally, was the first person to comfort and support Kimball when life threw out this speed bump.
"I never thought he couldn't keep racing,'' Gordon Kimball said. "I never allowed myself to face that, I just said, let's take it one step at a time and get on the road to recovery.
"I don't think he realized how brave he was. It's one thing for a gifted athlete to have success after success, but it's a much more inspiring story when athletes have personal setbacks and can overcome them.
"The wonderful part of this story is that he is an example that diabetes doesn't need to keep anybody from doing what they want to do.''
The example part, Kimball insists, comes from having an example of his own: his father. The inspiration goes both ways.
"There's not one thing important in life that he hasn't taught me,'' Kimball said. "He is always a rock for me, willing to teach, willing to listen.
"He's been an inspiration and I've been able to turn his success into my success because I've had his wisdom and support,'' Kimball said.
"Any race weekend, I want to go out and win. But if I could win this Father's Day weekend with him there and be able to show my gratitude, it would be like nothing else.
"It would be a drop in the bucket compared to what he's given me.''