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NESN driving the inside line

June 30, 2005

By MATT DiFILIPPO - Staff Writer
2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers

Gene Landry says no one else in New England is doing what he's doing. He's hoping racing fans will appreciate him filling that void enough to tune into "Inside Line," a show debuting Saturday at noon on New England Sports Network (NESN).

Landry is the show's executive producer, and he describes it as "a half-hour, magazine-style, single-theme, reality format."

"Rather than cover the highlights of races around New England, we focus on interesting personalities and events," Landry said.

Landry said the reality format comes from the show having no host or narrator.

"So the participants that make the New England racing scene so intriguing are the ones who tell the story," he said.

The show actually debuted last summer and ran for 16 episodes on local FOX affiliates in Bangor, Portland and Presque Isle. The success of that run (in one market "Inside Line" received a 15 share, which means 15 percent of all televisions in use were tuned to that show) led Persistence Media, which produces the show, to shop for sponsors over the winter.

NESN scooped up the program, and TD Banknorth is the main sponsor, with New England Ford and the Maine Army National Guard as presenting sponsors. Landry said the plan is to run episodes for 17 weeks through Oct. 22. The program will be rebroadcast at 4 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This week's show focuses on Farmingdale's Johnny Clark, in what Landry calls the "Chasing the Dream" theme. Clark is last year's Pro All Stars Series (PASS) champion and is still young enough to move up in the racing world.

"For us, Johnny Clark epitomizes racers all across the country, chasing the dream to compete on NASCAR's biggest tracks," Landry said.

Future shows will profile Ted Christopher of Connecticut, who Landry calls "probably the winningest driver in all of New England," and Dave Dion and his three brothers, who have been racing together for 40 years.

The crew from "Inside Line" was also at last week's 250-lap PASS event at Unity Raceway to do a feature on the track and owner Ralph Nason. Landry said the crew got great footage of the crash between leaders Clark and Mike Rowe that cost Clark the race and was there when Nason was booed by some in the crowd when he was introduced for the race.

"Well, if they're booing, it means they're paying attention," Nason reportedly said.

"Inside Line" is hoping to capitalize on NESN's boost in popularity from the success of the Boston Red Sox, and another connection between the Red Sox and racing will come July 31, when former Sox star Rico Petrocelli will be the grand marshal at the Banknorth 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway.

"We know that for many of our fans, as passionate as they are about stock car racing, the Boston Red Sox might even rank ahead of that," OPS owner Bill Ryan said. "So it's very exciting for all of us, especially in this first summer after the Sox reversed 'The Curse,' to have a New England sports legend like Rico Petrocelli be part of our biggest event."

Petrocelli hit .251 with 210 homers in a 13-year career spent entirely with the Red Sox.

He was also a fine fielder, leading the American League in fielding percentage twice at shortstop and once at third base.

OPS will also be busy this weekend, with the Maine Lottery Fireworks Night beginning at 6:30 p.m., Saturday. The after-dark fireworks show is billed by the track as "the grandest fireworks display in western Maine."

There's also a full slate of racing, including the PASS New England Dodge Dealers Firecracker 150 on Sunday afternoon.