Juanita 'Lightnin' Epton, Daytona International Speedway Ticket Worker Since '59, Dies at 103


A long, long-time employee of Daytona International Speedway and recently-recognized local legend, Juanita 'Lightnin' Epton, has passed away at 103 years old. Epton worked the ticket office at the speedway from 1959 until 2024, there for each and every running of the iconic Daytona 500.

Over the years as she worked the ticket office she gradually became widely-known and increasingly celebrated by her coworkers, especially as her seniority came to eclipse the competition by a wide margin. In 2022, track president Frank Kelleher named the ticket office in her honor, dubbing it the Lightnin' Epton Ticket Office. That name will stay on the office as a reminder of a remarkable career in fan service.

Over Epton's time working at Daytona she saw the track evolve from an ambitious new local attraction to an international icon of motorsports and live entertainment. She sold tickets for a litany of historic moments in motorsports, including a record seven Daytona 500 wins by Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt's historic 1998 win on his 20th victory, and the shocking upset victory of 20-year-old Trevor Bayne in 2011. The amount of sports history that happened there during Epton's tenure could fill museums. Many of those who were lucky enough to see those moments received their tickets from her.

Epton began working at the track alongside her husband, Joe, who oversaw NASCAR's timing and scoring operations from 1947 to 1985. When she started, the speedway's seating capacity was around 10,000. As of this year's Daytona 500, her last at work, the stands hold 101,500 fans. Over all that change, Epton never lost her love for the job.

“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,” said NASCAR CEO & Chairman Jim France. “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.”