Thunderbirds to perform flyover ahead of The Great American Race
for the 14th consecutive year
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 11, 2024) – 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.”
About Daytona International Speedway
Daytona International Speedway is a state-of-the-art motorsports facility and was awarded the SportsBusiness Journal’s prestigious Sports Business Award for Sports Facility of the Year in 2016. 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, also known as the World Center of Racing, boasts the most diverse schedule of racing on the globe. Some of the exciting racing events include January’s Rolex 24 At DAYTONA and Roar Before The Rolex 24, February’s DAYTONA 500 and Speedweeks Presented by AdventHealth, March’s Bike Week At DAYTONA Presented By Monster Energy, featuring DAYTONA Supercross and the DAYTONA 200, the August Coke Zero Sugar 400 weekend, and much more. The Speedway grounds are also used extensively for other events that include concerts (Welcome to Rockville, Heroes Honor Festival, etc.), sporting events (DAYTONA Soccer Fest, CLASH DAYTONA, etc.) civic and social gatherings, car shows, photo shoots, production vehicle testing and police motorcycle training.
About The United States Air Force Thunderbirds
2023 marked our 70th year representing the U.S. Air Force and this year in 2024 we are slated to perform nearly 70 demonstrations across 35 locations.
Since 1953, this legendary team has served as America’s premier air demonstration squadron, entrusted with the vital mission to recruit, retain and inspire past, present and future Airmen. While the faces of the team and the aircraft have changed over the decades, what has not changed is our dedication to representing the greatest Air Force on the planet.
The Thunderbirds represent the pride, precision and professionalism of 695,000 total force American Airmen, 68,000 of whom are deployed around the globe protecting our nation. Despite our polished appearance and unique attire, the team you see today are combat ready, many having served in harm’s way defending U.S. interests.
The Thunderbirds are about more than air shows; we demonstrate what the highest level of teamwork can accomplish and inspire millions to reach for their dreams and be the best version of themselves.
This year the team embarked on its third ever training trip prior to show season at Spaceport, New Mexico and Edward AFB, CA. The historic trip resulted in the team flying approximately 1,500 flying hours prior to their first air show. The 2024 Thunderbirds, as a squadron, are entering this year with an amount of preparation and preparedness that’s unmatched in the team’s history.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities. NASCAR sanctions races in three national series (NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series™), four international series (NASCAR Brasil Sprint Race, NASCAR Mexico Series, NASCAR Pinty’s Series (Canada), NASCAR Whelen Euro Series), four regional series (ARCA Menards Series, ARCA Menards Series East & West and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour) and a local grassroots series (NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. NASCAR also owns Motor Racing Network, Racing Electronics, and ONE DAYTONA. Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races annually in 12 countries and more than 30 U.S. states. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).