The USAF Thunderbirds will return to Daytona International Speedway for the 14th consecutive year, and 15th overall, performing a flyover for a sold-out crowd ahead of the 66th running of The Great American Race, the track announced today.
The U.S. Air Force Demonstration Squadron “Thunderbirds”, also known as “America’s Ambassadors in Blue,” will perform their signature “Delta” formation just before the green flag drops for the 2024 NASCAR season opener – the DAYTONA 500.
“The Thunderbirds flyover is part of a rich tradition we have here to kick off the NASCAR season, and we always look forward to hosting them at The World Center of Racing,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher. “The sound of those jets piercing through the sky is the perfect precursor to those engines firing up on pit road as we get ready for one of the biggest and most thrilling races of the year.”
The epic flyover will take place in front of a full house at the World Center of Racing, as the track announced a complete grandstand and camping sellout in November, nearly three months before the NASCAR season opener. This the earliest sellout of the DAYTONA 500 in the modern era, with fans setting an undeniable precedent for the high energy and exciting atmosphere sure to take place during The Great American Race.
“The Thunderbirds recently celebrated 70 years of excellence,” said Thunderbird #1, Lt. Col. Nathan Malafa. “Since our inception, the Thunderbirds have become a unifying force, focused on inspiring America and communities across the world to pursue perfection and capture excellence.”
The squadron is composed of 12 officers and more than 120 enlisted personnel from across nearly 30 Air Force job specialties. They pilots fly with extreme precision in the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the team continues to recruit, retain and inspire audiences across 35 locations throughout the year.
The squadron performing ahead of the DAYTONA 500 is composed of Thunderbird team members hailing from different cities and towns across the state of Florida including: Maj. Zachary Taylor, SMSgt Sean Sirico, MSgt David Cepin, MSgt Seth McKinney, TSgt Joel Burg, TSgt Jonathan Chapman, TSgt Nicholas McVey, TSgt John Terkoski and SSgt Diana Quijada.
The thrilling flyover is just one element in the entire multi-day experience during Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth.
The action begins on Wednesday, Feb. 14, with DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented by Busch Light, setting the field for the Bluegreen Vacations Duel at DAYTONA, which occurs the following night on Thursday, Feb. 15, where drivers will battle it out for a spot in the coveted Great American Race.
The season-opening races for all three NASCAR national series as well as the ARCA Menards Series kick off on Friday, Feb. 16, starting with the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Fresh From Florida 250. Saturday, Feb. 17, will feature an action-packed double-header with the ARCA Menards Series race followed by the Xfinity Series United Rentals 300.
Then Sunday, Feb. 18, directly following a flyover from the USAF Thunderbirds, drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series prepare for an intense battle in the DAYTONA 500, as Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth comes to a close.
For more information regarding the DAYTONA 500 and Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth, please visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.”