Inside the Indycar Championship with Kathryn Oughtred

The Nerve Center exec producer talks to Playback about the challenges of shooting the episode, during which driver Dan Wheldon lost his life.

Nerve Center, the factual series that goes behind the scenes of high-pressure environments like Cirque du Soleil, races back onto the Discovery Channel for its second season Sunday, with an in-depth look at the high-octane world of Indycar racing.

But as series exec producer, Kathryn Oughtred explains, it wasn’t as simple as just getting approval from the show’s broadcaster and shooting the episode.

“We worked closely with IndyCar’s communications cepartment to get an understanding of how the organization operates, and to learn who within it does what jobs,” she tells Playback.

“That way we could determine which characters we would want to follow through the preparation leading up to and throughout the race,” she adds, noting that the entire process of researching, planning the logistics of the shoot and deciding on the angle of the episode took about five months.

The event-based nature of the sport also posed a unique challenge to the Nerve Center production team, and required a much larger crew, as well as a compressed shooting schedule.

To respond to these challenges, the team sent three crews of four people to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to cover the preparation days, adding a fourth crew on race day.

“Basically, we needed to be everywhere all the time and not miss a beat,” says Oughtred.

This meant covering the events from the race control room, embedding crews with two racing teams throughout the entire preparation and race, covering the pit lanes and, most importantly of all, the track on race day.

Yet, the biggest challenge for the crew came not from the logistics of shooting the show, but the unpredictability of the events that took place on the track during the race.

“[This episode] has a huge emotional quotient to it because one of [Indycar's] most accomplished and well-loved racing stars, [Dan Wheldon], lost his life on the track that day,” she says.

“It was a horrible, fiery crash and it sent chills throughout the racing world.  While our crews were shocked and saddened by witnessing the accident, they were consummate professionals who kept their attention on the shoot,” she adds

Season two of Nerve Center premieres Sunday with back-to-back episodes from 8 to 10 p.m., offering a look behind the curtains of Cirque du Soleil’s latest show , followed by the Indycar episode.