Originally created 07/10/98

Dispute shuts down auto race track



GROVETOWN -- Residents neighboring the Augusta Motor Speedway on Gordon Highway, may be accustomed to the rumble of engines every Saturday night, but they can expect quiet evenings for a while.

The roar of racing has been silenced over a dispute between park owners Nancy and Ennis Thomas and track operators, John Paul Ahlbrandt and his son Mark.

The dispute centers around a lease agreement which began in June, which the Ahlbrandts claim is now invalid, canceled last month by Mrs. Thomas.

But the track owners say the original deal is still good.

"They signed a lease the first of June for six months, and the lease has not been broken," said Mr. Thomas.

The Ahlbrandt's partner, Duane Deese resigned as track manager June 24, claiming the Thomas's had violated the lease agreement.

According to the elder Mr. Ahlbrandt, with Mr. Deese out of the picture, there will be no more races until a new agreement with the track owners is in effect.

"I'll be glad to re-do a contract, but it's going to be with the same conditions," Mr. Thomas said.

Mr. Thomas said that even if things cannot be worked out with the Ahlbrandts, he intends to find someone to lease the track, or open it back up in late August, himself.

"The track will open back up," he said.

But the bottom line is there will be no race Saturday, or any following week this month until the dispute is settled.

"I think we probably are (at an impasse)," the elder Mr. Ahlbrandt said. " But we will still negotiate with them."