Daytona Speedway's Longest Tenured Employee - Juanita Lightin' Epton - Dies At 103

"I am full of mischief."

Courtesy Daytona International Speedway
Courtesy Daytona International Speedway

Juanita “Lightin’” Epton, the longest-tenured employee at Daytona International Speedway, has died.

Epton, 103, worked at the ticket window for the very first Daytona 500 in 1959. She had been hired a year prior by NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. when the racetrack was still under construction, according to a release from

Capacity for the speedway was 10,000 seats back then and tickets ranged in price from $6 to $10. Epton recalled counting the tickets on the kitchen floor at the France family home the night before the race.

On a picture of the grandstands gifted to her by the speedway architect, Epton would mark each seat off in pen as it was sold.

Epton’s husband Joe worked as a NASCAR official who eventually became the first head of timing and scoring; after they married, he brought Epton from her hometown Grenada, Mississippi to Florida.

He is also responsible for giving her the nickname “Lightnin.”

“He always said he never knew when or where I might strike,” Epton said in a 2008 interview with the Orlando Sentinel. “I am full of mischief.”

Epton’s life’s work as a ticket seller meant she became a fan favorite among ticket-buyers who often asked for her by name. Thanks to a sharp memory and decades of experience, she could often recall where a ticket holder’s seats were located without looking at her ledger.

She also sold tickets during perilous times in the country’s history, once helping a soldier deployed to Vietnam surprise his parents by sitting down next to them at the Daytona 500.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Epton created a system for dealing with customers who demanded tickets in an all-white seating section despite the speedway never having segregated grandstands.

“Sir, did I ask you your race when you called to order tickets?” Epton recalled saying.

“No, ma’am,” was the reply.

“Well now,” Epton would say, “how would I know who you’ll be sitting next to?”

The speedway honored Epton in 2022, naming the ticket office “Lightin’ Epton Ticket Office.” Epton was still on the job at age 102.

Jim France, NASCAR’s CEO and Chairman said Epton brought “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.”

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