The Thunderbirds have a history of doing the opening flyover for NASCAR’s Daytona 500 race. 2014 marked the squadron’s 4th consecutive year doing it, but we’ve done it a few times prior to 2010 also. For me, it was my second time returning to work public affairs events before the race.
Although the flyover only lasts a couple of seconds, the squadron sends several people (including my public affairs team) to the track a week in advance to hype it up. We do a lot of community service, like visiting high schools and hospitals. Media interviews are also part of the plan.
We sometimes meet some cool people along the way. I’m not as educated about NASCAR as I should be, but we had fun flying driver’s Ty Dillon and Kyle Larson during one of our media engagements. We also flew Para-Olympian Blake Leeper. We also met actor Chris Evans (Captain America) during our press conference in the Daytona media center.
Last year, we spent all week prepping for the flyover, only to cancel due to weather. So, this year, as we went about our work, fans were constantly ribbing us, reminding us that “you didn’t do it last year, so you’d better do it THIS year!” Fortunately, we did.
Luck was on our side … right after we flew over, a rainstorm hit the area. Followed by a tornado warning! The race was delayed for several hours … But honestly, once the flyover happens, I’m too tired to follow up on it. (I just read the results in the news the next day.)