WATCH: U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform flyover at 2023 Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The world-renowned U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds performed the traditional flyover for the 65th annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.
The Great American Race marks the season-opener of the NASCAR Cup Series. The flyover also marks the beginning of the show season for the Thunderbirds, which feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft.
This is the 13th consecutive year, and 14th total, that "America’s Ambassadors in Blue" – officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron – showcased 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.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform a flyover prior to the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Thunderbirds 2023 show season includes 33 stops including the following Florida dates and locations:
- April 1-2: Homestead ARB
- April 15-16: Cocoa Beach
- October 28-29: Sanford
- November 4-5: Punta Gorda
The squadron, which includes eight pilots (six demonstration pilots) and hundreds of support personnel, is stationed at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. The Daytona 500 show is a homecoming for a select group of Thunderbird team members including nine support personnel and the pilot of Thunderbird 2, Capt. Zachary Taylor, of Casselberry.
The Thunderbirds were officially activated on June 1, 1953, as the 3600th Air Demonstration Team at Luke AFB, Ariz, according to the Air Force. Their first aircraft was the straight-winged F-84G Thunderjet, a combat fighter-bomber that had seen action in Korea.