The world-renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform the flyover for the 63rd annual DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021 at Daytona International Speedway, the prestigious season-opening event to the NASCAR Cup Series (FOX, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The flyover will mark the 11th consecutive year, and 12th total, that “America’s Ambassadors in Blue” – officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – will showcase their world-class talent and precise choreography flying their signature “Delta” formation over the World Center of Racing at the end of the National Anthem for The Great American Race.
“We’re honored to have the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds continue to be a part of the traditional DAYTONA 500 pre-race ceremonies,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said. “For both the thousands of fans in attendance and the millions more watching on television, the sight of the USAF Thunderbirds soaring over the race track at the end of the National Anthem is one of the most exhilarating and treasured moments of the DAYTONA 500 experience.”
“We are excited to fly over the Daytona 500 again this year,” said Lt. Col. John Caldwell, Commander and Leader of U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. “This amazing event has kicked off our demonstration season for the past ten years, and we are grateful for the partnership between the Speedway and Air Force. There is always a lot of enthusiasm surrounding this race, and we’re honored to share the pride, precision and professionalism of the 693,000 total force Airmen to NASCAR fans around the world.”
The Thunderbirds feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft. 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 April and November.
Since the unit’s inception in 1953, more than 400 million people in all 50 states and more than 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.
For a select group of Thunderbird team members, the DAYTONA 500 will be in familiar surroundings as they hail from Florida:
- Lieutenant Colonel John Caldwell, Thunderbird 1 – Commander and Leader, is from Orlando, Florida. He leads all the flying demonstrations as well as commands the 130-person squadron.
- Major Zane Taylor, Thunderbird 3 – Right Wing Pilot, is also from Orlando, Florida.
- TSgt Paton Holmes, #1 Assistant Dedicated Crew Chief, is from Islamorada, Florida.
- TSgt Ned Johnston, Non-commissioned officer In-Charge of Public Affairs Operations, is from Tampa Bay, Florida.
- TSgt Joshua Williams, Maintenance/Line Chief, is from St. Augustine, Florida.
- SSgt Ryan Burns, Aircraft Maintenance Phase Technician, is from Pensacola, Florida.
- SrA Aarien Foster, Aircraft Structural Maintenance Technician, is from Bradenton, Florida.
For information on the 2021 DAYTONA 500 and all Speedweeks Presented By AdventHealth events, which kicks off on Tuesday, Feb. 9 with the 43rd Annual Busch Clash on the DAYTONA Road Course under the lights, fans can visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP. All guests will be screened before entering the facility and will be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six feet social distancing throughout their visit. Fans can stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest speedway news.
About the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds
The official mission of the United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron is to plan and present precision aerial maneuvers to exhibit the capabilities of modern, high-performance aircraft and demonstrate the high degree of professional skill required to operate those aircraft. The missions, objectives and goals of the Thunderbirds can be summarized into one word: ambassadors. The team is a group of traveling spokespersons for the Air Force, demonstrating a clear example of America’s air power. Performing at public venues tells the Air Force story, often to people in communities that have little interaction with America’s military.
About Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is the home of The Great American Race – the DAYTONA 500. Though the season-opening NASCAR Cup Series event garners most of the attention – as well as the largest audience in motorsports – the approximately 500-acre motorsports complex boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe, thus earning it the title of World Center of Racing. In addition to eight major weekends of racing activity, rarely a week goes by that the Speedway grounds are not used for events that include civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing and police motorcycle training.