Watch NASCAR Driver Become Navy Petty Officer for a Day

Brad Keselowski Tours USS Gerald Ford Ahead of Coca-Cola 600

There are always surprises for NASCAR crews when it comes to pit stops. This week there were several for driver Brad Keselowski, who detoured to Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, to meet with sailors and learn more about what they do.

Keselowski poses for a photo with Navy sailors at Naval Station Norfolk. Apparently one of the sailors, who’s a big fan of the race car driver, wasn’t able to be there that day, so Keselowski held up that sailor’s photo in appreciation. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Airman Jose Gonzalez

Many of the station’s sailors are going to the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina over Memorial Day, which is why Keselowski made the trip. He’ll be representing the Navy during the race. To prep for that role, he was made an honorary sailor before touring the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford and then the entire base in an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter.

After being anointed a petty officer for the day, Keselowski was given an officer’s hat and welcomed aboard the USS Ford by Navy Capt. Richard McCormack.

“I know the crew’s really looking forward to it,” McCormack said of the tour. And being as Keselowski won the 2012 championship and has 24 career wins in the sport’s top series, that’s understandable.

Keselowski learns about flight deck control as he tours the USS Gerald Ford at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. Keselowski will represent the Navy in the Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day weekend. DoD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Petitt

Keselowski, who has a sister, uncle and cousins who served in the military, was excited to get started. They set off to the hangar bay, then flight deck control and the bridge. He also got a chance to take control for himself – but just for a minute.

He then learned about the catapult launch system and talked to sailors before ending his ship tour in the captain’s cabin, where he got coined. Considering the captain’s cabin is like an oasis on an otherwise sterile-looking ship (we’re talking wooden floors, carpet and overstuffed coaches versus white walls and gray floors), it was a good way to end the tour!

Needless to say, Keselowski was impressed, not just with the carrier’s new technology but the people operating it all.

“It’s so easy to forget that the technology is still a product of the daily work of the people,” he said.

Next, Keselowski made his way to the HSC-9 helicopter squadron, the Tridents, attached to Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush. After a preflight safety briefing, they took him up into the sky for another tour, this time of the whole base.

After an exciting day, we asked Keselowski what military vehicle he hasn’t be in yet that he’d like to drive.

“I’ve always wanted to drive a tank,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to fly an F-18 with the Blue Angels – that was great – and I’ve gotten to drive a destroyer – that was great – but I think the bucket list for me is to drive a modern-day tank.”

The Navy’s orientation day was the first for all of the service branches ahead of the Coca-Cola 600, which has been held every Memorial Day weekend since 1960. The next branch to get acquainted with their honorary driver: Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on April 26. Stay tuned for full coverage of that!

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