Daytona International Speedway icon dies at 103

Juanita ‘Lightnin” Epton, whose name adorns the Daytona International Speedway ticket office after more than 60 years of employment, died on Thursday at the age of 103.

Epton worked the very first Daytona 500 in 1959, joining husband Joe as a NASCAR employee. Joe served as the sport’s chief of timing and scoring from 1947-1985.

“Lightnin’ Epton and her husband Joe were part of my mom and dad Bill and Anne France’s team from the early days of NASCAR,’ NASCAR CEO Jim France said via a statement on Thursday. ‘They were scoring races, selling tickets, and did every other job that needed to be done. The Eptons worked from the Carolinas, coming to Daytona Beach to help with races on the beach, and ultimately moving to Florida for the opening of Daytona International Speedway.

‘She worked alongside our family from the very first DAYTONA 500 through this year’s 66th running of the race, bringing an incredible passion for the track to the ticket office every day. Lightnin’ was beloved by our staff, fans, and drivers alike. Our family will miss Lightnin’ tremendously and our thoughts are with her family and friends as we celebrate her life.”

Epton was honored in a ceremony in August 2022 with the renaming of the ticket office.

“I just don’t know what to say,” Epton said at the time. “This place and these people mean so very much to me, I can hardly express my emotions at this honor. I truly feel so grateful to be standing here today, seeing my name become a part of this speedway. It feels so surreal.”

Her career at the Speedway included more than 150 points races and all seven generations of Cup Series cars. It dated all the way to that first 500 when grandstand capacity was 10,000 and she helped count tickets by hand in the France family kitchen.

She was the longest-tenured employee at Daytona International Speedway.

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