Through Our Lenses: Best of 2016, Volume 1

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As we begin to look toward the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, our INDYCAR Digital Media and Photography groups wanted to give one last holiday present. Earlier this month, we challenged each of our photographers to provide a few favorite images captured from this past year, along with a few words on each image.

In Volume 1, we start with our photographers' favorite images from the first half of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule. Tomorrow, we'll bring you Volume 2 covering the second half of the 2016 season. Enjoy!

Photographer: Chris Owens
I was sitting in the media center in Phoenix going through my photos (from the afternoon session) and made the decision not to use this photo because it was just a little blurry. Once I zoomed in to check, I noticed him (James Hinchcliffe) with his fingers up, giving me either a "Peace Sign" or just a quick wave. I talked to him later that day and he laughed. He said he could kind of make out the profile of me, so when he passed he lifted his fingers that lap. Definitely a unique shot.

James Hinchcliffe

Photographer: Chris Jones
Shortly after the start of the season-opening St. Pete race, I hurried over to shoot from a condo adjacent to the circuit. Cautiously looking over the balcony, I could see Turn 4. Right after I got there, this major pileup occurred below me. Here, over half of the field has come to a stop. If you look closely, you can actually see Graham Rahal with both of his hands out of the car, almost giving a sermon to those stopped facing his car.

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Photographer: John Cote
In the first race of the year at the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, Juan Pablo Montoya was the winner and looked like the man to beat. Man, he put on a show that day.

Juan Pablo Montoya

Photographer: Chris Jones (Editor's Choice)
The return to Phoenix International Raceway was incredible. Fans, drivers, teams, officials, sponsors -- they were all jazzed. In the end, Scott Dixon was the class of the field to take the twin checkers that night, but somewhat stealth-like, Simon Pagenaud (also in the shot) scored his second straight second-place finish of the season. Both figured to be key figures for the championship.

Scott Dixon

Photographer: Richard Dowdy
Josef Newgarden confirmed his status as a rising star in INDYCAR — not only by his driving ability, but also for being chosen to join the prestigious Team Penske after the season. His attention to detail is a perfect fit. He’ll be one to watch in 2017.

Josef Newgarden

Photographer: Chris Owens
I love the motion in this shot. It’s sharp and blurry in all the right areas! The Will Power Verizon car is also one of the most photogenic cars in the paddock, in my opinion. The Long Beach skyline and crossing bridge also make a pretty cool background for a photo.

Will Power

Photographer: Richard Dowdy
Scott Dixon, seen here back by the Long Beach Aquarium fountain, won at Phoenix and Watkins Glen in 2016, but came up short to match his previous successes as four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion. In 2017, the Ganassi stable will be powered by Honda, a change that could bode well for Dixon’s aspirations.

Scott Dixon

Photographer: Chris Jones
The biggest story of the season was the domination by Simon Pagenaud. His win at Long Beach was the first of five for him in 2016. Add in his seven poles and this was a familiar shot for us all season long.

Simon Pagenaud

Photographer: Bret Kelley
This is one of those really cool shots in all of INDYCAR racing. I really like the angle I was at outside of Turn 2 in the "Alabama Rollercoaster" section, and how you can see the track winding behind. The lush greenery of Barber Motorsports Park seems to pop with white/gold of Josef Newgarden's car.

Josef Newgarden

Photographer: Bret Kelley
Perhaps one of the underrated sections of Barber Motorsports Park is by Turns 14-15-16, right before pit in. There's a lot more on-track action there than folks know. I'm a big fan of this image - just a nice clean slow pan of our race winner and eventual champion, Simon Pagenaud, at a picturesque track.

Simon Pagenaud

Photographer: John Cote
After winning his third race in a row in 2016 at the Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Simon Pagenaud was clearly the one to beat. When he wins a race, the celebration starts right there in the cockpit. Bringing it home in the Menards car with John Menard in pit lane, all the better.

Simon Pagenaud

Photographer: Chris Jones
The second-biggest story of the year was the return of James Hinchcliffe after his Indy 500 practice accident in 2015. He proved his comeback was complete when he won the Verizon P1 Award for pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500. This was a pure celebration.

James Hinchcliffe

Photographer: Joe Skibinski
One of the greatest honors is to be able to capture that moment in time when a driver, much less a rookie driver, becomes an Indianapolis 500 champion. A lot of photographers go for this image from the inside of the track. I prefer the outside because the pagoda is in the background. With Alexander Rossi on fumes, moving so slowly down the frontstretch and driving on the inside of the track, it made this image much more special.

Alexander Rossi

Photographer: Chris Owens
I love the wreath shot because it’s truly behind the scenes. We were on the New York City media tour with Alexander Rossi coming back to Indianapolis and this image just hit me. It just looked like it was waiting to be photographed. One of the coolest things about being a photographer for INDYCAR is that I get to share the view and perspective that most fans don’t get. When I shoot, I think of our fans with the thought that perhaps they would find this shot interesting.

Alexander Rossi

Photographer: Bret Kelley
Detroit Belle Isle is a great place to shoot - as long as you know what you're wanting to shoot and from where you're going to shoot those. The Belle Isle backstretch doesn't get a lot of photography love, but when the light is right, it can really be fun. I loved the location, even though I had a tight area to try and get this shot of Scott Dixon. And I finally did.

Scott Dixon

Photographer: Bret Kelley
Detroit's Victory Circle is separated from pit lane and the start/finish line, so we usually get solid reaction shots from the pits. I wanted to see if I could get an alternate angle for Race 2, so I was shooting from the side position and was able to use the front nose photographer's flash to get this shot. Somewhere, there's a photographer that has this identical moment captured from straight on, but I'd like to thank him or her for the flash.

Will Power

Photographer: Chris Jones (Editor's Choice)
Let there be no doubt, INDYCAR has some of the best fans in the world, not just in motorsports, but all sports. When the night race at Texas was delayed due to a slow-drying track, our PR staff went back to the paddock to ask drivers if they would be interested in doing an impromptu autograph session in the stands. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Ed Carpenter were two of many who jumped at the opportunity. This was just a great shot of our drivers appreciating our fans, and how much our fans appreciate INDYCAR.

Firestone 600

Photographer: Chris Owens (Editor's Choice)
With the race rained out on Saturday night, we started it Sunday afternoon. The skies were ominous, but the track was dry. During a caution you could see the signs that we weren't going to get to halfway. This image is dark, but cameras can do no justice to just how dark those clouds were. It was the definition of "dark-dark." The rain is about 2 miles from this vantage point, and it got real ugly about 90 seconds after this shot.

Firestone 600

From the fans