CONCORD, N.C. (February 20, 2008) - Along with driving the high banks of Daytona International Speedway last week, Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray experienced a once-in-a-lifetime thrill when he was invited to fly with the U.S. Air Force...
CONCORD, N.C. (February 20, 2008) - Along with driving the high banks of Daytona International Speedway last week, Roush Fenway Racing driver Jamie McMurray experienced a once-in-a-lifetime thrill when he was invited to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
McMurray, who won at Daytona International Speedway last July, was invited to fly in an F-16 Fighting Falcon, along with television star Jeff Hammond. The two paired up last Tuesday at the Daytona Beach International Airport, where they met their crew for the afternoon.
"We invited Jamie out for a flight because as a NASCAR race champion he understands the dedication and teamwork involved in the pursuit of perfection," said Capt. Elizabeth Kreft, Thunderbird No. 12. "We wanted to show Jamie - and thousands of race fans - the Air Force's commitment to those same professional goals."
After receiving their suits and pre-flight instruction, McMurray and Hammond made their way out the tarmac. McMurray flew first with Thunderbird No. 8, Major Tony Mulhare, who showed the driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, a few maneuvers the jets and pilots perform during a typical mission.
"Each person who steps into our jets will know why we understand the power of speed and accuracy, and why we choose to put on the uniform and continue to serve our country," said Capt. Kreft.
After a 45-minute flight that included a maximum vertical climb takeoff, high-speed rolls and turns and aggressive tactical maneuvers, the F-16 touched down safely on the runway.
When the two climbed out of the jet, Major Mulhare awarded McMurray with a "9-G" pin. The pin is only given to those participants who are able to endure 9 G-forces during the flight.
"I can't believe we just did what we did," said McMurray following the flight. "What a thrill to be able to fly with some of the greatest pilots in the world. Today Major Mulhare showed me what it is like to fly at speeds of over 500mph. The minute we took off, I knew it was going to be a fun ride."
Three days later, the pilot and crew attended the race at Daytona International Speedway and were there to shake McMurray's hand before he climbed into his No. 26 Ford.
"I have a lot of respect for those guys and what they go through. It was really cool to see how much their 'pit crew' is like our crew. Before the flight they went through everything with me to make sure I understood what was going to take place in the air. Then, right before we took off, the crew went over the entire jet again to make sure everything was set for our flight. They made sure everything was crossed off their list. I have to say, I was very impressed.
"Overall it was a pretty amazing experience to fly with Major Mulhare and the entire Thunderbirds crew."