WATCH: Longtime Daytona Speedway employee Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton celebrates 101st birthday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Juanita “Lightnin’” Epton has worked in the Daytona International Speedway ticket office since 1958, BEFORE the first Daytona 500.

Epton celebrated her 101st birthday Thursday among Speedway and NASCAR colleagues at the same ticket office where she was still working that same day.

“I have no intention of retiring,” Epton said. “When people retire, they get stale, and I am not getting stale. I am going to work as long as I can.”

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Epton also sold tickets for the speedway when they were still racing on the beach in the 1940′s. Since then, year after year, she’s greeted fans with her smile and iconic energy.

“I have waited on people for generations. Don’t you think that’s not a thrill, to see somebody come in here to know that I waited on their parents and grandparents? It’s just something I’ll always treasure,” Epton said.

Last year, because of COVID, Lightnin’ celebrated her 100th birthday with a socially-distanced parade. This year, she was once again at the Speedway, surrounded by coworkers.

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Lightnin’, who is of course a NASCAR fan, says Ryan Blaney is currently her favorite driver, but as for getting in a race car, she says that was something she only did once, with her husband, Joe.

Epton says Joe was the one who gave her the nickname Lightnin’ when they first got married, because he said he never knew “when and where she’d strike.”

“He asked me ‘have you ever been around the racetrack?’ I said no, I’m not going,” Epton recalls. “Well before I knew it, I was going around the track...I enjoyed it, but I said, you know, this is not for me. I need to be inside, not outside.”

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And inside Lightnin’ will be, at the ticket office, welcoming race fans to the speedway.

“I would like to continue for as long as I’ve got the right,” Epton says. “Until they tell me otherwise, I am going to stay.”

Joe Kepner

Joe Kepner, WFTV.com

I unloaded the U-Haul in Orlando in 2008, just in time to cover the Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals.