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Fanfic / Teach Me How to Win (or Live)

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Cruz Ramirez, formerly a trainer, is now living her dreams of being a full fledged racer with Lightning McQueen serving as her mentor and crew chief. As she continues to live out her dreams, Cruz also attempts to make amends with her current rival Jackson Storm, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her. Meanwhile, Jackson has issues of his own regarding his bad behavior and lack of friends, which are clearly hurting his personal life. However, both racers are shown to have much bigger problems on their wheels prepared for them... while being unprepared themselves for what they're going to face.

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Teach Me How to Win (or Live) is a Cars fanfic, taking place not too long after the events of the third film. The story shows the aftermath of Cruz winning the Florida 500 and beating Jackson at his own game, developing its own unique take on the two characters and why they're the way they are.


This fanfic contains the following tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Zigzagged with Jackson; he still has his fans who think he is great, but Jackson is generally loathed by just about everybody else that he has to work alongside with for understandable reasons.
  • Always Someone Better: Cruz fears this about Jackson, who is more experienced and stronger than she is. This becomes more apparent after she kept losing to him in a series of races following the Florida 500.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Though she's not Cruz's real mother, Carla is shown to be quite like your average parent, from being overly protective of Cruz to showing a video of her as a kid in a poorly done Lightning McQueen costume.
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  • Artistic License – Sports: The author has openly stated that she doesn't know a lot of how racing actually works (or cars in general) and doesn't expect to get a lot of facts about it correct.
  • Ascended Extra: Ray, Jackson's crew chief who only appeared in one scene in the whole film, gets a considerably bigger role in the story as the guy who tries to keep Jackson's behavior in check.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • When Carla is about to show everybody a video of a younger Cruz dressed up as Lightning McQueen, Cruz quickly panics and shouts to Carla in Spanish, "Por favor! No me averguences delante de mis nuevos amigos!" note 
    • Ramone and Cruz's cousin Pablo also have a brief exchange in Spanish after the former gives the latter a new paint job.
    Pablo: Thanks man, Se lo agradezco mucho. note 
    Ramone: Eh, no hay de que. note 
  • The Clan: According to Mater, his family's so large that you need a GPS just to find one of them at a family reunion.
  • Continuity Nod:
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    • Chapter 4 mentioned how Lightning lost the Piston Cup race in 2006, tried to ask out Sally during a court trial, and generally changed his old ways for the better. The 2006 Piston Cup race in particular is brought up a few times here and there in the story.
    • When introducing him to her family, Mater reminds Cruz that his full name is Sir Tow Mater.
    • Cruz beating Jackson in the Florida 500 race and him ramming her against the wall are both get mentioned repeatedly throughout the story (the former moreso than the latter).
    • That one Lightning McQueen fan returns briefly in Chapter 6, this time she's dressed up as Cruz and promptly shouts her name instead.
  • Declaration of Protection: Lightning gives Cruz a small one in chapter 11, where he states that, when it comes to racing, he'd rather just see Cruz well and unharmed in the end.
  • Demoted to Extra: Downplayed, as he still serves as an important character, but Lightning gets sidelined a bit as the story was meant to place more focus on Cruz and Jackson.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Maybe not "desperately" but, it's implied that Jackson wants to figure out what potential he has outside of racing, when he takes into consideration that he might possibly be let go by his sponsor once guilt-induced depression prevents him from focusing on racing.
  • Disappeared Dad: Cruz reveals in Chapter 4 that she never got to know her father. Though it's unknown if he died at some point before she was born, or if he just simply left.
  • Family of Choice:
    • Lightning declares everybody at Radiator Springs to be his true family, after having a rather mangled relationship with his actual family.
    • Cruz also declares her aunt Carla and cousins Victor and Pablo to be her actual family as well rather than just her extended family. Justified, as she grew up with all three of them.
  • Filler: The author herself has admitted that the first several chapters were mostly just character introductions, wanting to show off what they're actually like before getting into the actual plot.
  • Flashback: Chapter 9 has two of them.
    • The first one features Cruz participating in a Rio Grande Speedway race, only to forfeit as she firmly believes she won't win.
    • The second is of Jackson as a young kid during Christmas time, distraught that his parents aren't around to celebrate it with.
  • Friendless Background: It's bluntly stated that Jackson doesn't have any actual friends as he prefers to distance himself from everyone else and evidently doesn't get along with other vehicles.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: "Friend" is stretching it, but it's shown that none of the Next-Gen racers (sans Cruz, debateably) really like Storm all that much due to him being a stuck-up dick all the time.
  • Hey, That's My Line!: Lightning playfully chides Cruz for using his "I am Speed" catchphrase early in Chapter 6 before the 2017 Piston Cup race.
    Cruz: What? You're pretty good at pep talk.
    Lightning: (chuckling) Yeah, but it's my pep talk. You've gotta come up with your own.
  • History Repeats: The ending to chapter 9 has Cruz getting into an injury during a race, just like Doc Hudson and Lightning.
  • Innocently Insensitive: During the Piston Cup race, Lightning tries to convince Cruz that she can beat Storm by reminding her that she overtook him in practice. Cruz responds by informing Lightning that he's slower than Storm, before realizing what she had just said.
    Cruz: Sorry! You know what I mean.
  • Ironic Fear: Cruz, a racecar, ends up developing a fear of racing. Played for Drama, however, as she's clearly affected by this and wishes to overcome it.
  • It's All About Me: Jackson clearly doesn't give a damn about anybody but himself. Time will only tell if this'll stay that way.
  • Jerkass: Jackson Storm, as always, Arguably even moreso than in the original film.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Jackson, when he was little, was placed under the care of his nanny Nancy, and felt genuinely lonely as his father was always away and his mother was gone.
  • Missing Mom:
    • Alongside having a missing father, Cruz's mother also died when she was at a young age.
    • Jackson never got to know his mother as she left to pursue a career in acting when he was also at a young age.
  • No Social Skills: Jackson has next-to-no proper social skills whatsoever, since he spends most of his time racing and dislikes the thought of actually making friends.
  • I Owe You My Life: An example that doesn't revolve around death; Cruz is very much thankful of her aunt Carla for taking care of her and her cousins all these years, and wants to pay Carla back by buying her a new home with the money she earns from racing.
  • Papa Wolf: Lightning serves as sort of a father figure to Cruz. Especially after he learns that she never had an actual father.
  • Parental Substitute: Cruz's aunt Carla took her in as one following the death of her mother and disappearance of her father.
  • Pun: Many of the chapter titles are puns on Jackson's name ("A Recurring Storm", "Jackass Storm", "Stormy Weather", etc.)
  • Reality Ensues:
    • The story downplays the Villain with Good Publicity trope by showing that Jackson Storm doesn't have any friends since nobody else is willing to put up with his attitude, while still having fans who don't know of his behavior (which is Truth in Television since it's common for people to be unaware of the off-stage life of many real-life celebrities).
    • Cruz also learns that it's gonna take a lot more than just "making an arrangement" to reform someone like Jackson.
  • Redemption Rejection: Well, maybe not exactly redemption but, in the first chapter, Cruz tries to make amends with Jackson as she didn't want there to be any sort of contempt between the two of them. Jackson, naturally, denies her request and instead chews her out for thinking that they'd automatically become friends afterwards.
    Jackson: You really think a little 'tire-shake' and all will win me over? That we'll be friends, just like that?
  • The Smurfette Principle: Cruz is apparently the only female racer among her team.
  • Spoiler Title: Downplayed with "Walls"; It Makes Sense in Context considering the chapter ends when Cruz smashes into a wall but out of context, you really wouldn't be able to tell exactly what it was supposed to mean.
  • Trauma Button: After crashing into a wall and having to be hospitalized because of it, Cruz ends up developing a fear of racing. She discovers this during training at Willy's Butte when she views the canyon wall, and proceeds to have a PTSD-related reaction.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy:
    • Another Chapter 4 reveal, Lightning mentions that he wasn't on very good terms with his parents. His father in particular, who disapproved of his dreams of wanting to become a racer.
    • Jackson's father was discovered to have been very unsupportive of him throughout his life. He even calls Jackson in Chapter 8 and fakes a reconcile moment between the two of them in a vain attempt to ask for money.
  • Why Can't I Hate You?: A non-romantic variation (thus far) as Cruz can't bring herself to truly hate Jackson Storm as she wants to find some good in him, even after he rammed her against the wall in the film and insults her frequently.
  • So Proud of You: In Chapter 8, Lightning assures Cruz that, even though she continues to lose to Jackson, he's still proud of her for giving it her all in her racing career.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Bubba, Chase, Ryan, and Danny, the other Next-Gen racers besides Jackson and Cruz, are considerably more nicer in the story than they are in the film, having accepting Cruz as a racer like them and even defend her when Jackson starts causing trouble.
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