‘She is an inspiration': Lightnin’ strikes 100 in Daytona Beach

Video: Lightnin' strikes 100 in Daytona Beach

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If you’ve ever been to a race at Daytona International Speedway, you would have crossed paths with Juanita Epton. She’s worked at the speedway ticket office since the track opened.

In Daytona Beach, hundreds of Epton’s friends, family and coworkers surprised her for a very special birthday celebration as she struck 100.

A sleepy Woodland Avenue transformed into something you’d see in New York City on Thanksgiving.

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“I’m flabbergasted,” Lightnin’ said. “I’ve never seen so many people in a parade before and it’s touching to think people took time out as hot as it is and as busy as people are that they took time out and I love everyone of them for doing it.”

It’s the love of her life that gave her the unique nickname.

“She got the name Lightnin’ because he never knew when she was going to strike and it stuck,” said Casey Epton Roush, her granddaughter.

Lightnin’ has been striking at the Daytona International Speedway since it opened in 1959.

She’s worked in the ticket office for more than 60 years.

“It’s kept me active and kept me doing things I love to do. I have really enjoyed those years,” she said.

She still works there but she hasn’t been able to get into the office because of the pandemic.

“If this virus will leave, I’ll be back tomorrow. That’s how anxious I am to get back,” she said. “I’ve got to fill that grandstand. I’ve been selling tickets for a long time and working in tickets and that’s what I want to do.”

That dedication is why speedway officials organized a parade, complete with a police escort, the official pace car and even an appearance by the mayor of Daytona Beach.

“She is an inspiration and represents the best in Daytona Beach,” the mayor said.

She’s 100 years Central Florida Strong, with her sights set on 101.

“Next year might be a little bit bigger,” Lightnin’ said.