Brian France buried two time capsules in cement at the Tucson Speedway track 22 years ago.
A lot has happened since then.
There have been four U.S. presidents; 20 NCAA basketball tournament appearances for the Arizona Wildcats — including 12 Sweet 16s, seven Elite Eights, three Final Fours and one national title — and four UA football coaches, six if you count the two interim guys.
France went from Tucson to the top of NASCAR — he’s the CEO and chairman. Back in 1992, though, he managed Tucson Raceway Park, now Tucson Speedway.
And in 1992, he buried those two time capsules, with something locked inside, under the flag stand.
Today, John Lashley — the Tucson Speedway president — and others will dig up the capsules before NASCAR’s official return to the Old Pueblo for the Whelen All-American Series with racing starting at 7 p.m.
So, what’s in the capsules?
For starters, it’s not your traditional time capsule. Buried are two beer kegs, but a tap won’t be needed — they’re expected to be empty.
“We don’t think so,” Lashley said. “But if there is, we’re gonna bring some straws. When I’m around a beer keg, I try to empty that thing as soon as possible. Although, I don’t think beer ages well.”
“I don’t know how that’s gonna go,” he added, laughing. “We might open these things up and there might be a colony of termites in there. We have no idea what the heck it is.”
They will find out tonight, before the races begin. What else do you need to know?
When is it, where is it, and what is it?
It’s the opening night of the NASCAR summer series, last seen in Tucson in 2008.
The NASCAR Dry Heat 75 is the first official NASCAR race at Tucson Speedway. There are four divisions of competition — super late models, pro stocks, modifieds and hornets.
Gates open at 5 p.m., racing starts at 7. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military and $5 for ages 11-16. Kids 10 and under are admitted for free.
“For somebody that cares to see good stock car racing,” Lashley said, “we will have it.
“Also, the important thing we’re trying to stress here is that we’ve got great family entertainment.”
There will be a kids’ zone sponsored by Ace Hardware, that includes swing sets, remote control cars, a jumping castle, a race car simulator and face painting. In races during the fall, they will include a petting zoo as well.
What’s the talent level?
Think of the competition at Tucson Speedway as sort of like the Triple-A Tucson Padres were to San Diego.
“We’re like the farm club,” Lashley said. “We’re sort of the farm league. If we’ve got a guy here that’s really just an outstanding driver or something like that, he would probably get a look by some of these teams.”
The winner of the super late model race, which is the premiere event, will fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, at the end of the year for the NASCAR awards banquet. There’s a $10,000 purse on that event, with the winner garnering $2,000.
Why is NASCAR coming back to Tucson after a six-year hiatus?
Last year, Tucson Speedway reopened after six months of renovations, and it’s made an impression not only locally — some races attract 5,000-plus spectators — but nationally as well.
In February, it hosted the Chilly Willy 100, which attracted drivers from Canada, Colorado, Las Vegas, California and Washington.
Bob Duvall, the NASCAR senior director of business development, flew to Tucson from Daytona Beach, Florida, in February.
“He came out, parked, got out, looked at the track, looked at the Catalina Mountains behind us and said, ‘This is one of the prettiest race tracks in America,’ ” Lashley said. “And he’s seen them all.”
That led to NASCAR’s return to Tucson.
Will France return to open the capsules?
It’s unlikely, although Lashley did extend him the invitation. He also invited Geraldo Rivera, a UA alum and well-known Fox News TV personality, to come check it out.
“He likes to open up all these time capsules,” said Lashley. “I’m sure Geraldo is thinking there might be part of Jimmy Hoffa in there. He’s always searching for Jimmy Hoffa.”