Imagine being able to say you’ve been at each and every Daytona 500 since the inception of the race back in 1959 — pretty cool, right?
Well, Juanita “Lightnin'” Epton has been present at all 59 Daytona 500’s and she’s getting ready for her 60th, but not quite in the way you’d imagine. The 97-year-old has worked the event each year, and will continue to do so—in the ticket office.
Epton sat down with NBC Sports racing analyst Rutledge Wood and discussed her time at Daytona. The first thing he asked was about her nickname. She was given the nickname “Lightnin'” by her husband Joe Epton, because he said, when they first got married he never knew when and where she’d strike.
She recalled the good ol’ days of racing in Daytona, when it took place on the beach. Her husband was the chief timer and scorer, so when the the racing moved to the track, she found herself selling tickets. When asked how she got where she is, she said, “Once you get sand in your shoes, it’s hard to get it out.”
And while she’s been there year-in and year-out, she’s never seen a single Daytona 500 race in all of her time at the ticket office. In fact, when asked if she’d seen a Daytona 500, or one of the 400’s, or any race at the speedway, she said she indeed had never watched a race at the track.
“I went up to watch one of the 125’s,” Epton said “But I got too worried about not being down here to take care of the tickets so I came back down.”
“When I see a race, I’m at another track, not here,” Epton added.
She’s been there since 1959, selling tickets, helping people have a good time, and “loving every minute of it”.