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Meet Lightnin’, the 103-year-old woman who’s been selling Daytona 500 tickets since 1st race

Story at a glance


  • The Daytona 500 started in 1959.

  • Juanita “Lightnin'” Epton, 103, has been there since Day 1, working in the ticket office.

  • That office has been named for her.

DAYTONA, Fla. (WGHP) — The Daytona 500 got its start in 1959, and 103-year-old Juanita “Lightnin'” Epton has been there since Day 1.

Over the years, Epton has become hugely popular with racegoers and drivers, and the track has even named the ticket office after her. For some, it has become a tradition to check in on Lightnin’ every year before the Daytona 500.

“I love the race fans, and I love the race drivers,” Epton said. “They’re always so nice, and they come by and they say hello and they visit with me as well, but it’s special when they do because they’re so busy and they don’t have time for their own self, much less than anybody else, but they do take time out.”

What may come as a shock is that, despite working in the ticket office since 1959, Epton has only seen the race once—and only part of it at that. But she says she doesn’t mind.

“My place is here in this office,” Epton said. “I was hired to help people to get to the race, and I love doing it because the smile on their face when they get their tickets and head up to the booth.”

The centenarian says she’s not planning to stop now. Epton agreed to let Nexstar’s WGHP check back in on her at the next Daytona 500.

When asked about the secret to her longevity, she said, “Well, the secret is I like what I do, and I work with some awfully nice people, so that keeps you in good spirits.”

The first Daytona 500 was hosted on Feb. 22, 1959. A crowd of more than 41,000 watched a field of 59 cars race for a purse of less than $70,000. The finish was so close it took three days to determine Lee Petty had edged Johnny Beauchamp.

This week, teams report to Daytona International Speedway for Sunday’s season-opening Daytona 500.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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