To honor one of its most-beloved employees – and an American Icon – Daytona International Speedway unveiled the “Lightnin’ Epton Ticket Office” on Thursday, a huge, emotional surprise to the 102-year-old who still comes to work each day.
Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton, who recently celebrated a birthday on July 15, has been a member of the Speedway’s ticket office operations at the storied 2.5-mile track dating back to 1958 when the historic venue was being built by NASCAR founder “Big” Bill France in preparations for the inaugural DAYTONA 500 in 1959. The rock of the ticket office for so many years, Lightnin,’ whose warmth and kindness has made her a part of the fabric of the iconic track, will again be working in the ticket office this weekend for the Wawa 250 and Coke Zero Sugar 400 – the Saturday night ‘last-chance’ event to make the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“I just don’t know what to say,” said an emotional Epton, who is not only loved by the Speedway and NASCAR, but by the fans, teams and drivers who attend Daytona races. “This place and these people mean so very much to me, I can hardly express my emotions with this honor. I truly feel so grateful to be standing here today, seeing my name, forever being a part of this speedway. It feels so surreal.”
The ceremony took place just outside the main entrance of the new Lightnin’ Epton Ticket Office. A huge crowd of NASCAR employees gathered for the celebration, including NASCAR and IMSA Chairman Jim France, NASCAR Executive Vice Chair Lesa France Kennedy and Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher.
“The France family has meant so much to me over the years,” said Epton, who says her nickname “Lightnin’” was coined by her late husband Joe when they first got married, claiming he never knew when and where she’d strike. “I remember Bill Sr. told me years ago that as long as I wanted to work I could – and I’ve taken him up on that offer.”
The Eptons shared a love of racing, and Joe was NASCAR’s first chief scorer from 1947- 1985. The couple had first met “Big Bill” at the fairgrounds in Spartanburg, S.C. in 1945, where Joe was scoring races. While having worked the Daytona beach/road course events prior, they made the full-time move to Florida when France began building Daytona International Speedway in ’58. It was then that Lightnin’ started working at the ticket office alongside Anne B. France, Big Bill’s wife.
Epton has always believed her place was in the ticket office but had never even seen the iconic DAYTONA 500 race in person until 2018, when she watched a portion of the event from a suite. An institution at the track for more than six decades, NASCAR’s oldest employee and Grenada, Miss. native will now have her name as a permanent piece in the iconic Speedway’s history.
“We wanted to do something special to honor Lightnin,’ to show her how important she is and has been to so many people,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher. “She has seen this Speedway from its birth to what it’s become today. She has been so inspirational to so many through the years, and the backbone of the ticketing operation. She really deserves this, and we are incredibly proud to be with her today.”
The new “Lightnin’ Epton Ticket Office” sign is just to the left of the main entrance of the Speedway’s Ticket & Tours Building.
Fans can pick up their tickets at the Lightnin’ Epton Ticket Office for the action-packed race weekend this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27. Friday’s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca Cola begins at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 gets the green flag at 7 p.m., as drivers fight for their last shot to make the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
For information regarding ticket purchasing or further details about the upcoming race weekend at the World Center of Racing, visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com