Race organizer pulls out of Augusta drag strip plans

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December 13, 2006

Plans for building a drag strip in Augusta are underway, but the group that was supposed to bring in the big races is pulling out.

City leaders tell News 12 they were aware the International Hot Rod Association was not happy about the controversy this racetrack was causing, but they had no idea that controversy would lead the group that brought the idea to Augusta to back out.

"We have decided that it's not our best interest to pursue this project any further," said IHRA manager Phil Gingerich.

Gingerich pitched the plan before commissioners back in September 2005. Now he says the year's worth of dissention over the potential drag strip has caused the sanctioning group to pull out.

"It just seems like the thing is not going anywhere," he told us by phone. "There's a lot of fighting amongst the people of the city, county."

Just over a year ago, the idea gained momentum with support of some commissioners, causing neighbors in south Augusta who were concerned about noise and traffic to come up with a plan to kill the proposal.

To calm their fears, commissioners Marion Williams and Andy Cheek organized a noise test and a financial study.

In response, neighbors paid a firm to do another study, but commissioners still voted to go ahead with the project.

Then community activist Woody Merry rallied opponents downtown, but more people in favor showed up.

Finally, Merry sponsored his own sound test.

Even with the IHRA pulling out, city administrator Fred Russell says the city will move forward, hoping that once track is built, the IHRA or another group will get on board.

But officials with the IHRA says their decision is final.

"We're pulling completely away from it, whether the track is built or not," Gingerich said. "Again, we decided it's not in our best interest."

There is still another option here. The NHRA, the National Hot Rod Association, could step up and sponsor the racetrack.

We will stay on top of this story and let you know what happens next.

Commissioner Marion Williams, one of the driving forces behind this project, did not wish to make a comment today.