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FIVE DAYS A WEEK JUANITA (LIGHTNING) EPTON makes the 15-minute drive from her home in Ormond Beach, Fla., to Daytona International Speedway, her workplace for the past 53 years. On the morning of the Daytona 500 she arrives between 5 and 5:30 to prepare the eight to 10 trays of tickets—about 2,000 in all—that she will personally distribute from her will-call window. "It goes on all day," Epton says. "Some people don't come until race time, and some wait till half the race is over."
Because of that, she has only seen the 500 once—on its 50th anniversary, in 2008—but according to her, that makes sense. "This is where I'm supposed to be on race day," she says. "My responsibility is here in the ticket office. When I go to see a race, it's in another city."
Epton and her late husband, Joe, moved from Raleigh in 1958 to help open the track. "When we first started, we had a ledger that we wrote all the names and addresses of the ticket sales in," Epton recalls. "I typed everything up on four-by-six cards, and then I went to the addressograph"—an old machine that created labels—"to cut all the plates for the mailing list and ran the envelopes off to mail the requests."
Epton embraces the technology that has long since made the job more manageable. "When you can look [data] up in the computer, you don't have to worry about your brain remembering the right person," she says. That's especially convenient for Epton, who has waited on some particular customers since the first running of the Daytona 500.
"There's still the diehards who will not order online," says Epton. "If we don't feel like we have time to get the tickets to our customers, we hold them here in the office."
And when they come to pick them up, they know who will be waiting for them. "I don't intend to retire," she declares. "I'm only 91, and I've got plenty more good years." —Rebecca Sun.
NASCAR'S FIRST RESPONDERS
Every race weekend a crew of hundreds springs into action to put out fires—literally—and keep trouble at bay
WHETHER THERE'S A FIRE IN THE PITS, A crash on the backstretch or sparks in the garage, folks from the track services team are on the scene. As Mark Stone, a logistics coordinator at Charlotte Motor Speedway, puts it, If they're doing their job, "no one is supposed to know we're there until something happens, and then they [should] go, 'Wow, they were there pretty quick.' That's the key to what we do." Every race weekend at CMS, Stone and his colleague Peter Cachia fly the 500 miles from their homes just outside New York City, where Cachia is an EMT with the New York fire department. (Stone retired from his FDNY position last February after 26½ years on the job.) They are two of about 100 crew members who aren't from the Charlotte area. Shaun Johnson, the senior manager of track services, estimates that up to 500 emergency personnel are on-site for each Cup race at CMS, including firemen (one in every pit stall), paramedics, doctors, nurses and helicopter crews, as well as the people who drive the wreckers, tractors and jet dryers.