DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - At almost 100 years old, Juanita "Lightnin'" Epton is still going strong, working inside the ticket office for NASCAR. She's the organization's oldest employee and she has no plans of stopping.
"Oh, no. I'm not ready to retire yet. I'll be 99 this month," Juanita Epton said.
Juanita Epton said she's never been the type to stay home and watch TV.
"I'm here every day and I enjoy my work and I enjoy the people I work with," she said.
For more than 60 years, Juanita Epton has been working for NASCAR. Her tenure there began after she met her late husband of 62 years, Joe Epton, who nicknamed her Lightnin'.
"He said he never knew when or where I'd strike," Juanita Epton said.
After the two were wed, her husband's love for stock car racing continued, a hobby that led him to NASCAR's founder Bill France.
"In 1945 I met Bill France Sr. in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the first race that was run after the war and he says: 'Well, I don't know how long it's gonna last but you're gonna be moving to Florida,'" Juanita Epton recalled.
Two years later, the couple moved to Florida. Joe Epton was the chief scorer and timer for NASCAR
and Juanita Epton worked behind the ticket window.
"There was no grass. The wind would blow the sand up through those windows -- we ate sand," Juanita Epton said about the first day NASCAR opened its doors for the first race on the iconic track.
The conditions didn't stop fans from flocking to the new track.
"People were coming to the race in droves. They came in high heels, all dressed up not knowing what to expect -- it was a scene to behold. What a joy it was to see people coming," Juanita Epton said.
Despite a much different scene today, one thing hasn't changed: the people.
"I've met some wonderful people along the way. Some are gone, some still here and some have moved away but the memories are the same," Juanita Epton said.
Lightnin's days at the speedway are spent inside the ticket office, where she sorts mail.
"If there are ticket orders, I put them in order of grandstands and seal all envelopes that go out. I count every ticket that comes in, every pit pass, every wristband," she said.
When asked how she would like to be remembered, Juanita Epton said she hopes to be known for her kind spirit.
"I was always courteous and open with them. I want to be honest with people and treat everybody like I would like to be treated and all you gotta do is smile and give a handshake."
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