NASCAR: US Air Force Thunderbirds To Perform Pre-Race Flyover at Daytona 500

by Matthew Memrick

The Daytona 500, NASCAR’s counterpart to the Super Bowl, will feature the Air Force’s famous Thunderbirds during the pre-race ceremonies.

If you’ve never seen the group, you are in for quite a show. The planes take a fantastic formation, flying within mere feet of each other. Not to mention the thunderous roar as several planes buzz will buzz the racetrack.

It’s the 12th straight year for “America’s Ambassadors in Blue will come to the legendary track.  

“The Daytona 500 is more than a precisely timed flyover for us,” Thunderbirds commander Lt. Col. Justin Elliott said. “It marks the beginning of our show season and showcases the hard work and dedication of the entire squadron. While we never stop training to improve the demonstration, we’re excited to begin showcasing our efforts.”

NASCAR’s season-opening race coverage for Feb. 20 will begin at 2:30 p.m. It’s the 64th Daytona race event at the track.

Want to know the exact time of the flyover? NASCAR responded to a fan’s question, saying they’d make their approach around 2:45 p.m. after the National Anthem. 

The Thunderbirds’ team consists of eight pilots, four support officers, 120 enlisted Airmen, and three civilians. 

This year’s pilots all come from Florida, with Staff Sergeant Brandon Murdagh from the closest city to the track in Orange Park.

Thunderbirds Performed At 2019 Super Bowl

While NASCAR consistently invites the famous squadron, the NFL asked for the group in 2017 and 2019. 

Why’s that? NFL and the Air Force like to mix things up. 

Fox 13 reported that three front-line bombers, a B-52 Stratofortress, a B1-B Lancer, and the B-2 Spirit’ stealth’ bomber cruised over Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium last season. 

The TV station reported that each plane came from its home base. The B-52 arrived from Minot AFB in North Dakota, with the B-1B coming from Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota. The last plane, the B-2, took off from Whiteman AFB in Missouri. The trio met in formation in restricted airspace before the flyover. 

In 2019, the pro football league took its game to Atlanta. The Air Force noted that the event came after a two-year break where the Thunderbirds flew over Houston’s NRG Stadium.

In Atlanta, six F-16 Fighting Falcons soared over the Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the moment, the final notes of The Star-Spangled Banner. They took off from nearby Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta.

Air Force Thunderbirds Have Big Plans For 2022

The Thunderbirds, also known as the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, are based in Nevada out of Nellis Air Force Base.

Will the Thunderbirds be coming to a town like yours soon? The group’s following three events will be in Arizona (March 19 at Luke Air Force Base), Mississippi (March 22 at Columbus Air Force Base), and South Carolina (April 2 at Shaw Air Force Base).

For a full schedule, check out this link. The group wraps their schedule up at their home base at Nellis.