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Juanita 'Lightnin' Epton, NASCAR legend who worked every Daytona 500 race, dies at 103: NASCAR

Juanita "Lightnin'" Epton, a woman who worked every Daytona 500 race at Daytona International Speedway since its start in 1959 – and became a beloved fixture among race fans in the ticket and sales office – has died, according to NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway. She was 103 years old.

"Lightnin' was beloved by our staff, fans, and drivers alike. Our family will miss Lightnin' tremendously and our thoughts are with her friends as we celebrate her life," Jim France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO said in a statement.

Epton worked in the ticket office at the first-ever Daytona 500 race at Daytona International Speedway in 1959, including this year's 66th race – no doubt, the longest-tenured employee at the racetrack.

In 2022, the Daytona International Speedway ticket office was named in her honor, becoming the "Lightnin' Epton Ticket Office."

"It gets under your skin and you can't help it. I started on the beach and it has grown," she told FOX 35 after the ceremony.

FOX 35's Amy Kaufeldt sat down with Epton in 2020, who was 99 at the time. You can watch that interview in the video above.

"I started when the track started," she said. NASCAR Founder Bill France Sr. recruited her and her husband Joe, a NASCAR official, to join him in Florida.

"I like my job. I like the people I work for. And I don't need accolades. I just need to be here and do my job and I enjoy it and I enjoy the people," she said. One interesting note in that interview: at the time, Epton had never watched a full Daytona 500 race.

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She was invited to one of the suites years earlier and made it through half of the race, she said, but her heart was downstairs in that ticket booth with the rest of her colleagues – and certainly, her own fans. So, she headed back down there.

Epton grew up in Grenada, Mississippi, according to an article on NASCAR.com. She reportedly declined a basketball scholarship and worked at a local sheriff's office where she had an "uncanny method of memorizing license numbers and their corresponding customers," NASACAR's Zack Albert wrote, adding that it would help her in her eventual racing career later in the life.

According to Albert, ticketholders would often call the ticket office and ask for Epton by name – and she would often know where their seats were without having to look at the records.