DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — She counts every ticket to the Daytona 500 -- all 101,500 of them. She counts every wristband. She counts every parking pass.
"Some days 10,000 [per day], some days 20,000," Juanita Epton said, "and then I check them twice."
Did I mention that Juanita Epton is 97-years old?
Or that hardly anyone knows her real name is "Juanita Epton?"
"They call me 'Lightnin' in church, so it must stuck," she said with a grin from her private office in the Daytona International Speedway ticket office.
And 'Lightnin' has stuck to Daytona.
The Ormond Beach-resident has worked all 60 previous, Daytona 500 and is just as eager for Sunday's 61st running of "The Great American Race." Epton also worked the Daytona car races held on actual Daytona Beach prior to the Speedway's creation. Her late husband, Joe, served as NASCAR's first official scorekeeper, and, as their kids reached elementary school age, asked if she could assist at the races part-time.
She started full-time in 1958, and she's been there ever since.
"If I can't help the Speedway with what little bit I have, then I'm in the wrong place," Epton said.
In 2018, the Speedway gave back to Epton. President Chip Wilie insisted Epton sit in his box for the 60th running of the Daytona 500.
It was the first-time in 60 years Epton had actually watched the race.
Within 10 minutes, she was back in the ticket office.
"I couldn't stand it!" she said, before backtracking. "I loved the beauty of it and watching the cars go around. But my mind was just turning that I ought know where I oughta be."
Greeting fans -- some new, some the same she's greeted for years -- at the ticket window.
Sixty years later, Lightnin' has fans of her own. Wilie and the ticket office beam when describing the fans who call insisting Lightnin herself sell them their tickets. Epton smiled when recounting all the friendships she's made with race-car fans from as far away as Iowa and North Carolina.
"If I thought of it as just a ticket, it would be different. But sometimes I wonder, 'who's gonna be sitting in this seat? And will they enjoy the race as much as I would if I was there?'" she smiled.
Lightnin' does admit she's not the best with names (she does, however "remember faces"). And when you're at Daytona -- and with "Ms. Lightnin" -- everyone is family.
"It's amazing the changes that have been made. But the nice part about it: the people who have been behind it have not changed," Epton smiled. "They're the same, friendly [people]. Everybody gets along. And everybody works to the end of the Speedway -- not my glory, not what I do. But what each person does to come together and makes this a great place to work."