If there’s one thing about 2021, I’m genuinely proud of my photos I took.

After a miserable 2020, it was great being back on the road on a regular basis.

Not only I’ve had the chance to cover events I’ve wanted to do for a long time, I actually adapted new techniques into my photography.

Room for growth is the greatest tool I’ve tried to use in my media career arsenal.

Compared to the last two installments, it was extremely difficult to narrow down my favorite photos from this year.

Even the events I didn’t have fun or things could’ve been better, I can at least be happy with the ones that look great, look great.

If you haven’t seen my favorite photos from 2019 and 2020, you can click on those years and check them out.

Before jumping to my personal favorite photos, here’s five that didn’t make my final list but still deserve some love.

An idea inspired by the INDYCAR championship contenders photo at Long Beach, I wanted to do something similar with the seven ARCA West title contenders.

From Left to Right: Joey Iest, Trevor Huddleston, Jake Drew, PJ Pedroncelli, Jesse Love, Cole Moore and Todd Souza

Fortunately, that was done at Phoenix Raceway and happy to snap this one with just the drivers. They brought in a couple ARCA people for the main shot moments after, but I also got this to clamor on.
We all have bad hair days. Yours truly hates it when that happens, but I can totally relate with Corey LaJoie here. This was during pre-race at Sonoma Raceway.
There were as many as five female drivers who competed in a single ARCA West race this year. However, only one competed the entire nine-race schedule and that’s Bridget Burgess. This image of her at Sonoma gave me early 70s F1 vibes with drivers wearing close faced helmets and balaclava.
Prior of entering Oracle Park in San Francisco, there were a group of dogs sporting pride colors. This one in particular had some boss googles and couldn’t resist capturing this image.
Dat Sunshine Tho! I know, bad word play but I was attracted by the Datsun. On top of that, I don’t get to shoot street vehicles that much and loved how it turned out. Lighting was beautiful and happy how bright and centered the Datsun was.

Without further ado, here’s my 25 favorite photos and the stories behind each of them.

The Surprise Dance

There was a lot of buzz at Sonoma about one GOAT being in attendance. Lo an behold, it was Michael Jordan. There was a lot of people who wanted to see his presence and led to capturing photos of the six-time NBA Finals MVP. How it cannot be one of my favorite shots this year? It’s MJ, the GOAT!

Florida Takeoff

Knowing any shot of capturing photos of NASCAR weekend at Daytona wasn’t happening, I knew this opportunity was it for me. That opportunity was shooting photos of the Thunderbirds with Chase Briscoe and Ross Chastain getting to strap aboard the bad ass aviator. This was a fun event to write and shoot photos.

Race Day Cheer

If NASCAR doesn’t bring the Charger Girls (or even the USC Song Girls) in the Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum, you gave Texas Motor Speedway a rare W in the eyes of people!

Joke aside, the pre-race festivities at Indianapolis is very unique. Purdue had the band and spirit squad at full swing in the 105th Indianapolis 500.

In this particular shot, you’ll see the spirit squad have multiple groups leading a marching line on the front stretch. I may have finished college half a decade ago, but the school spirit lives on.

Going for a Fancier Route

While at Portland International Raceway, I finally became comfortable on going lower on my shutter speed with my Nikon D750. I had only done it with my D3400 up to that point. Once capturing this amazing shot of Felix Rosenqvist during his qualifying run, I accepted the change. The D750 shines better when “doing the fancy.”

It’s not an easy task, but when it comes out sharp, I smile with ease. Only thing I’d wish it would’ve been better was Rosenqvist’s ARROW McLaren SP being in the middle. I’ll hone my craft in that regard eventually.

Northwest Agony

Aside from Taylor Gray, NOBODY were happy after the wild ARCA West race at Portland.

Jesse Love looks at the podium stage where Gray celebrate with disappointment. When I made this photo black and white, it added more depth into the emotions the younger drivers go through. Love would ultimately win his second straight title two months later.

One Coast to Another

It was an absolute pleasure meeting “Owl” at the Import Face-Off in Kent. She recently moved from Florida to the state of Washington. What I really love about this photo was the reflection of her standing next to her MX-5 RF on a bright late August afternoon.

This is the kind of content I want to create more in the future, showing someone’s personality. In this case, her Miata being a part of who she is.

Late Arrival Was A Sign

I literally said after this shot, ‘It must be a sign!’ That sign being that Daniel Hemric will finally win a NASCAR race. The night before he won the Xfinity Series title, Hemric’s car wouldn’t arrive until 30 minutes before practice. It literally arrived in a white hauler you’d see from late model competitors.

What happened to their main hauler was their driver ran over a deer carcass in Texas. The hauler arrived the following morning.

At that point, Hemric’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing crew pulled out the car with only a few reporters out there at hand. The lighting was simply beautiful and happy how it came out. To me, this was the big story of the weekend.

Modified Relaxation

Eric Goodale prior to Tour Modified qualifying at New Smyrna Speedway. It was a long week for those competitors in the World Series of Asphalt, so this was a refreshing site. Not often I get shots like this and no doubt right up there as my all-time favorite candid shot of a competitor.

SpeedWorld Energy

Bond Suss. That’s the man in this shot as he observes Sammy Smith’s run at New Smyrna. The moment I captured this image, all I thought of was how ESPN would capture footage of crew members from this particular angle. The lightning was on point and the nostalgia kicked in with a Hellcasters track playing in my head. Suss ended 2021 with a Snowball Derby victory to his resume.

Championship Views

When it comes to the NASCAR (and dirt racing) side of of things, it’s Kyle Larson’s world and we’re living in it. While out front, his competition is just a blur. This was evident during the Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway. You can still tell where it was located which made it so illustrative in my eyes.

Eyes on Making the Field

Qualifying weekend at Indianapolis is as intense than the 500-mile classic. More so when there’s cars that could go home. This year’s edition was one of those weekends where any mistake will be costly.

For Dalton Kellett, you can see the sheer preparedness as his shot of making the 500 was several minutes away. He’d make the Indy 500 grid after going 30th fastest out of the 33 that made the cut.

Spring Glamour

There’s some shots that work better when edited. Even with the sun glare, sepia enhanced the image a lot more. I enjoyed collaborating with Brenna back in early April and really love this image due to those reasons.

Sour Grapes

Sonoma Raceway can be cruel to West drivers. Even the best like Jesse Love, who had a rough Saturday practice/qualifying session. A lap before his shunt into the barriers, he actually spun in that same exact corner.

While it wasn’t ideal for Love bringing back a wrecked Toyota, he would return towards the end of the session. His race didn’t go too well, so safe to say it was a day to forget.

Sadness Looms New Smyrna

Super Bowl Sunday was the latest thing on everyone’s mind at New Smyrna. While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Kansas City Chiefs in Tampa, sadness loomed here.

That’s because the night before, the track lost Rusty Crews. Before Night No. 3 of the World Series of Asphalt commenced, the track held a moment of silence for Crews.

There’s a saying where the short track racing community are a tight nit family. This moment is when it really hit me how true the statement is. While I got a long ways to go of building a name in the world of racing, I can at least appreciate the bond people have for one another.

Group Nonsense

What happens when you get a group of people to be in a photo? Shenanigans.

Before we got the entire ARCA West field to get a photo with Julie Giese, I captured different photos of the drivers interacting with one another. This one is as out of context as it can get.

You have Drew Dollar raising his finger like he won the race. Then you see Ty Gibbs with a sling on his left arm smiling at someone while Toni Breidinger isn’t amused at something. Sebastian Arias presumably is looking at them. Hard to explain out context shit, but it’s funny looking back.

Vision Magic

I’ve collaborated with Brooke back in 2018 and thought why not create more magic in 2021? That’s what happened early April when I captured multiple shots around Everett. This one is arguably my favorite shot from that afternoon. Figuratively and literally speaking, Brooke crushed it with this image like she means business.

Kiss the Golden Dirt

Golden Hour is sexy AF. More so when there’s a race car storming around a track. Even more glamorous if it’s a dirt sprint car.

As the sun was going down on a February evening at Volusia Speedway Park, Sheldon Haudenschild made his qualifying run. I don’t get many chances to shoot golden hour because a lot of the races I cover are in the day.

Needless to say, more golden hour shots will be awesome. Time will tell when my next event will have such luxury. Same applies with dirt racing because it’s real fun to shoot.

Bay Area Miracle

When I was in San Francisco, I literally walked from Crissy Field to Oracle Park. It was the way for me to see some of its finer views when I had nothing else to do but roam the area. I was there to cover the races at Sonoma Raceway, but had a full Friday to myself.

At Rincon Park, where there’s a Hills Bros. Coffee building nearby, what I was intending to do here was capture this shot but without the bird. I noticed it and thought, ‘Get that instead!’ It went away, but another one arrived a few minutes later and was ready to capture a photo.

Problem with my camera sometimes is if my subject will be focused on blurred. Thank goodness, the bird was focused and became a no brainer this would make my favorite images of 2021.

The Only Positive Moment

I rarely have bad outings behind the lens. This year’s Summer Showdown was by far not one of my finest moments. As I’ve expressed here, lack of sleep and motivation will do that. Nothing I captured turned out all that good which sucked. However, I have this to keep myself positive.

That’s because of how awesome that moment was of Lane Sundholm winning the 40-lap Mini Stock race at Evergreen Speedway. This wasn’t even the main show, yet it felt like one when Sundholm noticed me here. Amazing celebratory shot that I thought would be hard to beat.

Hard Work Pays Off

Alex Palou, el campeon de INDYCAR. The Spaniard won the title at Long Beach in his season debut with Chip Ganassi Racing. Talk about an underrated get from Chip as Palou had an amazing rookie year with Dale Coyne Racing w/ Team Goh the year before. Man, did Palou delivered in 2021 with three wins (Barber, Road America and Portland) to his name.

The only thing negative was the confetti not blasting off properly. It was a cloudy and windy Sunday afternoon in SoCal, but that shit didn’t matter. This image of Palou kissing the Astor Challenge Cup is all you need to tell a story. I also dig how you can see his No. 10 NTT Data Honda in the trophy.

Summer Domination

This victory lane shot of Kyle Larson is beat AF. It had a perfect blend of seeing Larson’s face without the confetti getting in the way. Lighting was also on point. What more can I say about this photo? It’s a lovely celebratory shot.

Unexpected Moment

If you would’ve told me I’d get a photo of AJ Foyt looking at me like that, I would’ve laughed. Believe it or not, it happened. I had the honor and privileges of working a photo essay on Dalton Kellett’s weekend at Long Beach.

Part of the assignment was capturing photos of Kellett’s engagement toast in the middle of an IMSA race. Foyt made a rare paddock appearance, especially on the West Coast. I tried not to be seen, but as you see, it didn’t work out. I like to be on the low for those things, but it was worth it just for this moment.

End of an Era

This image makes this list for one main reason. Robin Miller and Bob Jenkins sharing a moment. Jenkins earned the Robin Miller Award during Carb Day at Indianapolis.

Little did I knew, both would pass away and left a huge void in the world of racing. Along with the passing of Al Unser, who was also at the Media Center that day, I stand that the 105th Indy 500 was the end of an era. We’ve lost many greats in American Open Wheel Racing this year. But the impact both Jenkins and Miller left will never be forgotten and are sorely missed.

Indy Stretch

Indy Hits Different! That’s been my motto all year when thinking about my first Indy 500 I ever seen and covered in person. It doesn’t get any bigger than Helio Castroneves capturing his fourth Indy 500 win.

What made it even sweeter was this image people really loved and even became a shirt. Michael Shank’s stretch game is strong as the gap between those walls must be challenging. It was no question, my all-time favorite image. That was until early August.

Three Wheelin’ It

Sunday warmup in Nashville is just a measly warmup session. Just another session to capture photos. But that warmup led to my all-time favorite photo to date.

Colton Herta up to that point ruled the streets. So much so, he was even conquering it on three wheels. Herta would crash late in the race while hunting down Marcus Ericsson, so the dream week had a crushing ending.

This is the kind of stuff that magazines should fight for as far as using my works. It’s the kind of stuff you see in sports cars as to how in-depth it looks. I simply don’t know how any of my photos going forward can top this, but a challenge worth fighting for.

Do I think about it? No. I just hope for the best and see if it’s strong imagery. I take it that way which is a healthier route.

Time will tell how my future will look like, especially in 2022. But as long as I have a camera in my hand, stories will be told.

If somehow I can top 2021 in the next five years, I’ll consider it as an accomplishment.

For now, hope you’ve enjoyed my works and it can lead to even more opportunities to keep my career running.

Those who are still with me or yet to recognize what I bring to the table, I thank you. You’re the fuel to my fire that keeps me motivated.

Until we meet again, doubt me if you insist, prove me wrong if I give consent.

Published by Luis Torres

University of Idaho graduate that's currently pursuing the dream of becoming a motorsports media personnel.

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