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Carl Edwards, top middle, said he underestimated what goes on on the flight deck.

The First and the Finest: Aboard the USS Enterprise

Edwards gets thrill being on Navy's largest aircraft carrier

By Bill Weber, NASCAR.COM
June 20, 2007
01:47 PM EDT
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I'm sure that somewhere, someone has written it so I won't even pretend I am the first to say it, but on Sunday at Michigan a nice guy finished first. The win for Carl Edwards was a popular one among the fans and certainly an important one for Carl and all of Roush Fenway Racing. But if you don't mind, I would like to follow up on a story we aired on TNT at Pocono and share with you why it might also be an inspiring victory for 5,500 men and women you may never meet.

They are the crew of the USS Enterprise. And if you saw the story on our coverage, you know why they are special. But now allow me to take you behind the scenes of our little trip.

It began early on Wednesday morning, two days after Memorial Day. We met up with Carl, Busch Series crew chief Pierre Kuettel and a few friends at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va. I really did not know what was ahead except that somehow we were going to get from Norfolk to the USS Enterprise. And since the ship was off of the North Carolina coast, I was pretty sure we weren't going to swim. Carl didn't seem to care, so I pretended to be cool with everything.

"Yeah, I'm real excited about today," Carl said. "We get to go meet these sailors. They're getting ready to go on a deployment [to the Persian Gulf] and they're out there doing sea trials, testing the ship. It's going to be really cool to go out and be on the tallest, longest, fastest aircraft carrier in the world."

Ah, what about the "getting there" part, Carl?

"Yeah, the getting there is going to be pretty exciting," he said. "To get to fly on this airplane and do a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier, I mean that's crazy."

And when Carl says "crazy" his eyes light up. And he's a pilot. I try to stick to the Cups and Saucers ride at Asbury Park.

So we climb onto an old military airplane, they even told us it was old, but very reliable. That was good. The seats are facing the wrong way. That was bad. I assume the pilot and co-pilot seats were facing forward but I never got up there to check. Our seats, about 12-15 of them, faced the rear of the plane, for safety! Good. I feel MUCH better now. We wore life jackets and ear plugs, plus ear muffs and goggles.

The plane was actually a C-2 Greyhound attached to the VRC-40 of the "Rawhides." No, I have no idea what that means. Actually I do because I asked the command master chief. VRC is the squadron designator. V means fixed wing (not helicopter); R means resupply; and C means composite (they are a "grouping" of small detachments or teams into one large squadron, kind of like lending your Nextel Cup pit crew to a Busch team for the day, or eight months). When the ships go overseas they will have one of these "teams" with them permanently, a "detachment" of two planes and crews assigned to the ship. "Rawhides" is their squadron name. Good, I like tough names. (Continued)

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