In a sight that has become a symbol of the start of the NASCAR Cup Series season, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform the flyover for the 65th running of the DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, February 19, Daytona International Speedway announced today.
This will mark the 13th consecutive, and 14th overall, time the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, also known as “America’s Ambassadors in Blue,” will perform their signature “Delta” formation to kick off The Great American Race.
The fan-favorite flyover also marks the start of a year of milestones that go beyond the 65th running of the DAYTONA 500. The Thunderbirds will be celebrating their 70th year in 2023, just as NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary gets underway.
“There will be no more thrilling feeling on Sunday afternoon than to hear the roar of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over our sold-out crowd at the conclusion of the National Anthem before the DAYTONA 500,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher. “Our facility, our sport, and the Thunderbirds have pasts that are steeped in history together. And we’re honored the tradition will continue this year at Daytona International Speedway.”
The Thunderbirds, formed in 1953, will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons in their flyover. Assigned to Air Combat Command, the squadron is composed of 12 officers and more than 120 enlisted personnel serving in nearly 30 Air Force job specialties. They have a rigorous schedule, performing hour-long demonstrations across the United States nearly 30 weekends between March and November.
“We are bringing the fans a surprise when we return to the Daytona 500 this year,” said Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, Thunderbird 1, Commander/Leader. “In honor of the Thunderbirds’ 70th anniversary, we hope to showcase more of the expertise and excellence each member of our squadron exudes daily. As a uniting force for this nation, we hope to bring a little something for everyone and can’t wait to debut the 2023 team.”
The DAYTONA 500 will be a homecoming for a select group of Thunderbird team members who come from Florida:
- Capt. Zachary Taylor, Thunderbird 2 – Left Wing, is from Casselberry, Florida.
- MSgt Sean Sirico, Maintenance Production Superintendent, is from Spring Hill, Florida.
- TSgt Joel Burg, Crew Chief, is from Pensacola, Florida.
- TSgt Seth McKinney, Specialist Flight Chief, is from Tampa, Florida.
- TSgt Nicholas McVey, Fuels System NCOIC, is from Tampa, Florida.
- TSgt Brandon Murdaugh, Quality Assurance Inspector, is from Orange Park, Florida.
- TSgt John Terkoski, Radio Frequency Transmission Systems NCOIC, is from Tampa, Florida.
- SSgt Alec Atkinson, #2 Dedicated Crew Chief, is from Lake Wales, Florida.
- SSgt Joshua Echevarria, Crew Chief, is from Sunrise, Florida.
- SSgt Diana Quijada, Aircrew Flight Equipment Specialist, is from Tallahassee, Florida.
The Thunderbirds’ flyover will cap off multiple days of exciting action during Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth.
It all starts on Wednesday, Feb. 15, with DAYTONA 500 Qualifying Presented by Busch Light determining the front row for the DAYTONA 500. That’s followed up on Thursday, Feb. 16, with the Bluegreen Vacations Duel, where it will be high stakes on the high banks, as drivers such as Jimmie Johnson and Travis Pastrana battle it out for the chance to race on Sunday.
Friday sees the return of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in the Next Era Energy 250. Then, the racing continues with a double header on Saturday, Feb. 18, with the ARCA Menards Series Race, followed by the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner 300.
Then, on Sunday, directly following a performance by Grammy-nominated artist Dierks Bentley, drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series will make their 2023 season debut in the 65th running of the DAYTONA 500.
Fans are encouraged to reserve their place in history during Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth by logging onto DAYTONA500.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Additionally, fans can buy or sell reserved seats for the DAYTONA 500 by visiting SeatGeek, the Official Ticket Marketplace of NASCAR.
Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway via daytonainternationalspeedway.