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Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton Death: NASCAR and Daytona Fixture Employee Passes Away at 103
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Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton Death: NASCAR and Daytona Fixture Employee Passes Away at 103

May 16, 2024
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The NASCAR community is mourning the loss of Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton, a beloved figure whose name is famously engraved on the ticket office at the Daytona International Speedway. Epton passed away on Thursday at the remarkable age of 103, having dedicated more than six decades of her life to the sport and its legendary track.

Juanita Epton’s storied career began when she joined her husband Joe as part of the NASCAR workforce. Joe Epton served as the chief of timing and scoring for the sport from 1947 until 1985. Together, they played an integral role in the very first Daytona 500 in 1959 and continued to support the sport in various capacities. NASCAR CEO Jim France reflected on her contributions, stating, “Lightnin’ Epton and her husband Joe were a part of my mom and dad Bill and Anne France’s team from the early days of NASCAR. They were responsible for scoring races, selling tickets, and performing any and all other tasks that were required of them.”

The Eptons initially worked from the Carolinas before relocating to Florida to be part of the launch of Daytona International Speedway. Their journey to Daytona Beach was driven by their commitment to assist with races held on the beach, underscoring their deep-rooted connection to NASCAR’s early history.

Juanita’s dedication to NASCAR was unwavering. “She worked alongside our family from the very first DAYTONA 500 all the way up until this year’s 66th running of the race, bringing a great love for the track to the ticket office each and every day,” Jim France remarked. Her presence at the Speedway was a constant source of inspiration and affection for all employees, supporters, and drivers. The France family, along with the entire NASCAR community, is deeply saddened by her passing. During this time of celebrating her life, they extend their heartfelt condolences to her family and friends.

In August of 2022, Juanita Epton was honored in a ceremony where the ticket office at the Speedway was renamed after her. During the celebration, she expressed her profound gratitude, saying, “I just don’t know what to say. When I think about how much this location and these individuals mean to me, I find it difficult to adequately articulate how I feel about this honor. As I stand here today, witnessing the incorporation of my name into this racetrack, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It seems so improbable to me.”

Throughout her career, Epton participated in more than 150 points races and drove all seven generations of championship cars. Her involvement dated back to the very first 500, where she helped count tickets by hand in the kitchen of the France family. Her dedication and commitment to the sport were unparalleled, making her the longest-tenured employee at the Daytona International Speedway.

Juanita Epton’s legacy is one of dedication, resilience, and passion. Her contributions to NASCAR were multifaceted and significant, impacting many aspects of the sport. She was not just an employee; she was a cornerstone of the Daytona International Speedway, a symbol of the rich history and tradition of NASCAR. Her work behind the scenes ensured the smooth operation and success of countless races, and her influence will be felt for generations to come.

Her story is a testament to the spirit of NASCAR and the community that surrounds it. From the early days of hand-counted tickets to the modern era of high-tech scoring, Epton witnessed and contributed to the evolution of the sport. Her involvement was not limited to administrative tasks; she was deeply engaged in the racing culture, understanding the intricacies of the sport and the importance of every detail in creating a successful event.

Juanita’s life was marked by her steadfast commitment to her work and her family. Her husband Joe, who passed away in 1985, was her partner in both life and the racing world. Together, they navigated the challenges and triumphs of building a sport that would capture the hearts of millions. Juanita’s enduring presence at the Speedway was a tribute to their shared passion and dedication.

As we reflect on Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton’s incredible life, we celebrate her contributions to NASCAR and the legacy she leaves behind. Her name, forever etched on the ticket office, serves as a reminder of her extraordinary impact on the sport. She was a trailblazer, a devoted worker, and a beloved member of the NASCAR family. Her story is one of perseverance, love, and an unyielding commitment to excellence.

Juanita Epton’s death marks the end of an era for the Daytona International Speedway and the broader NASCAR community. Her influence will be remembered and cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing her and those who continue to be inspired by her legacy. As we honor her memory, we recognize the profound effect she had on the sport and the countless lives she touched throughout her remarkable 103 years.

In conclusion, Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton’s passing is a significant loss to NASCAR and the Daytona International Speedway. Her legacy of dedication and service will continue to inspire future generations. The NASCAR community extends its deepest sympathies to her family and celebrates the life of a truly extraordinary woman who left an indelible mark on the sport she loved.

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