- The Daytona 500 was launched in 1959.
- Juanita “Lightnin'” Epton, 103, has been there since day one, working at the ticket office.
- This office bears his name.
DAYTONA, Florida (WGHP) — The Daytona 500 started in 1959, and 103-year-old Juanita “Lightnin'” Epton has been there since day one.
Over the years, Epton has become hugely popular with racing fans and drivers, and the track even has the ticket office named after it. For some, it's become a tradition to check in on Lightnin' every year before the Daytona 500.
“I love racing fans and I love racing drivers,” Epton said. “They are always very nice, and they come to say hello and visit me too, but it's special when they do because they are very busy and they don't have time for themselves, and even less than anyone else, but they take time.
What may come as a surprise is that, although he has worked at the ticket office since 1959, Epton has only seen the race once, and only part of it. But she says it doesn't bother her.
“My place is here, in this office,” Epton said. “I was hired to help people get to the race, and I love doing it because of the smile on their face when they pick up their tickets and head to the booth.”
The centenarian says she has no plans to stop now. Epton agreed to let Nexstar's WGHP monitor her at the upcoming Daytona 500.
When asked what the secret to her longevity was, she replied: “Well, the secret is that I love what I do and I work with terribly nice people, which keeps you in a good mood .”
The first Daytona 500 was held on February 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 that Lee Petty had beaten Johnny Beauchamp.
This week, teams will report to Daytona International Speedway for the season-opening Daytona 500 on Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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