If I had to pick the driver most likely to be coaxed by Chubby Checker into doing the dance he made famous, the twist, it would be Kenny Wallace. I would have been right. Chubby, who has performed at the Super Bowl, enhances any sporting event.
I climbed the press box roof to watch the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly above Daytona International Speedway. We waited, waited, waited, the anticipation mounting and there they were, slicing through the sunshine. The six F-16s flew within feet of each other. Think of the precision required to pull that off.
They passed, circled, returned, circled again and returned again, everybody on the roof following every move. Three men in Thunderbird uniforms stood on the roof holding what looked like white pans.
“There’s a lot of communications going on,” says Robert Skelton, operations officer out of Rome, Ga. “There’s a lot of adjustments with air speeds and timing.”
Added Skelton: “Part of our job as the Thunderbirds is to help inspire people, and that is exactly what a fly-over at the National Anthem does. We start out about 10, 12 miles away, and we’re doing about 400 mph as we cross over.”
The Daytona 500 is one long tease. The trick is to avoid trouble and stay in contention. It’s like poker. We wait all afternoon for the final card.