DAYTONA BEACH , Fla. – The world-renowned U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds” will provide race fans with the flyover during the National Anthem for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 – the prestigious season-opening event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday, Feb. 20 at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s an honor to have the Thunderbirds return to Daytona International Speedway and take part in the pre-race festivities for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500,” said track President Joie Chitwood III. “The USAF Thunderbirds are known around the world for their aerobatic flying, and race fans at the ‘The Great American Race’ will witness what will surely be an exhilarating flyover.”
It’s the second time the flying squadron will perform the flyover at the historic “World Center of Racing.” The Thunderbirds previously provided the flyover for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 in 2008.
"We are excited to fly over an event as prestigious as the Daytona 500 and make the Air Force a part of this day," said Lt. Col. Case Cunningham, Thunderbirds commander and leader. "As the race crowd hears the final notes of our National Anthem, our formation will showcase the absolute pride and precision with which the United Sates Air Force delivers Global Vigilance, Global Reach and Global Power with unmatched effectiveness. Without a doubt, ‘The Great American Race’ is an awesome opportunity for us to humbly represent the nearly 35,000 Airmen supporting combatant commanders from deployed locations around the world, providing combat power for America."
The Thunderbird flyover will feature six Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons buzzing the famed Speedway before landing at nearby Daytona Beach International Airport.
The Thunderbirds, comprising twelve officers and more than 130 enlisted members, perform precision aerial maneuvers in approximately 70 shows a year at 35 different locations from the middle of March to the middle of November.
Since the unit's inception in 1953, more than 350 million people in 61 countries and all 50 states have witnessed the red, white and blue jets in more than 4,123 official aerial demonstrations.
Credit: Daytona International Speedway Press Release