- Like every Pixar movie, it contains references to other Pixar films (both short and feature-length). Also plenty of references to NASCAR.
- The name McQueen itself is a reference to Glenn McQueen, a senior animator on early Pixar films who died of cancer in 2002; Lightning is named as a tribute. The Pixar staff takes pains to point out that it wasn't, as is commonly thought, a reference to Steve McQueen, he of the famous car chases.
- Lightning himself uses Lightyear Buzzard brand tires, and the Lightyear blimp can be seen at races. This one is a twofer: a hark back to Buzz Lightyear and a pun on Goodyear Eagle tires. Additionally, the Dinoco brand is the name of the gas station Woody and Buzz get stuck at, while also a pun on Sunoco, the current brand of race fuel used by NASCAR. And Lightning's number, #95, is a reference to the year Toy Story was released.
- Chick Hucks' number, #86, is a reference to the year Pixar was founded.
- Can't forget the Drive-In scene. I sure wonder how Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc. and A Bug's Life were received by car critics.
- One of the Piston Cup racers, Mac iCar, is sponsored by Apple Macintosh. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs was also one of the founders of Pixar. May also count as Product Placement.
- Near the end of the film, Luigi can be seen making fun of a clearly Italian-based car that is shorter and fatter than him. Whose grill apparently resembles a mustache.
- The King is not only voiced by Richard Petty, but is painted in the same blue shade that Petty's 1970 Plymouth Superbird was painted in.
- In fact, his crash during the climactic race is modeled after Petty's notorious crash at the 1988 Daytona 500.
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. voices his own #8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo.
- The Rust-Eze owners, Dusty and Rusty, are voiced by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the hosts of the NPR show Car Talk. They even bid Lightning goodbye with their shared Catch-Phrase:
Dusty: Don't drive like my brother!
Rusty: And don't drive like my brother!