HomeSportsNASCAR Drivers Take Flight with Air Force Thunderbirds Ahead of Daytona 500: Photos

NASCAR Drivers Take Flight with Air Force Thunderbirds Ahead of Daytona 500: Photos

by Charles Craighill
(Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Ahead of the Daytona 500 this Sunday, a few NASCAR drivers took some joy rides with the Thunderbirds. Earlier today, NASCAR posted a few pictures to Twitter of Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe joining some Air Force pilots on the tarmac for a little joy ride with the captains.

“A tradition unlike any other … is back,” NASCAR said in their Twitter post this afternoon. “Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe took flight over Daytona with the Thunderbirdsbefore the Daytona 500.”

The pictures feature the two NASCAR stars standing side by side on the tarmac decked out to the nines. They both wear Air Force jumpsuits, combat boots, and masks. They also wore matching United States Air Force helmets when flying in the planes.

NASCAR may feel fast going upwards of 200 miles per hour, but nothing matches the speed of the Thunderbird. Those Air Force high-speed bombers reach top speeds of 1,500 miles per hour. That’s Mach 2 if anyone is wondering.

A NASCAR Tradition Like No Other

The Thunderbirds have done a flyover in almost as many Daytona 500 NASCAR races as there have been. This tradition began all the way back with Bill France Sr., who surrounded the beginning of stock car racing. He was a strong patriot and a huge supporter of the American armed forces.

In fact, France was responsible for the first stock car races on runways of the Montgomery Air Force base in Montgomery, New York.

“NASCAR held a Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) race on Montgomery Air Force Base in Montgomery, N.Y., in 1960,” says Buz McKim, a NASCAR historian. “Bill Sr. and NASCAR enjoyed a close relationship with all branches of the armed forces, a relationship that continues to this day.”

These Air Force Thunderbird flyovers, however, started two years before Daytona Super Speedway even opened. The first flyover that can be pinpointed occurred right before the 1957 beach races. Then, in 1959 before the second running of the Daytona 500, France did an Air Force flyover. And now, the rest is history.