- Obviously, watching Lightning McQueen crash in the teaser trailer can definitely be considered this for those who grew up with the franchise.
- After Storm wins the opening race, his victory prompts an increase in Next-Gen racers. Natalie Certain notes that the older-model racers begin retiring or being replaced after every race of the season. By the time we get to the iconic crash scene, McQueen is the only old racer on the track. Storm notices this and takes a moment to point Lightning's situation out.Jackson: (during the start of the race) Hey, Champ. Where'd all your friends go?
Jackson: Hey, McQueen, you alright? (While Lightning is panting trying to stay focused) Listen, don't you worry, pal. You had a good run. (Overtakes him) Enjoy your retirement!
- With only forty laps to go, Lightning frantically rushes Guido to finish his tires at the pit stop, desperately trying to beat Storm back out onto the track. Lightning briefly takes the lead, only for Storm to catch up mere seconds later.
Darrell Cartrip: Unbelievable! McQueen is fading! McQueen is fading! Fading fast! (getting more muffled)
- Lightning's reaction to Storm's taunt is a bewildered stare as though he's starting to question why he's even still racing at all. He quickly comes back to his senses and desperately tries to catch up to Storm and the other two cars that passed him while he was distracted. Not helped at all by McQueen's heavy breathing, his engine being pushed to it's limits, and the intense swelling music in the background.
- And then he CRASHES. Although we see it in the trailers, it's still very traumatizing to watch. The film takes it a step farther by having no music so all we hear is the sound of clashing and screeching metal. When there is music, it is a eerie violin and horn playing with the sounds of sirens accompanying it. It also doubles as Nightmare Fuel.
- The Hudson Hornet's 1954 crash. It starts off good with Hudson gaining a major lead in a race on Fireball beach but all the sudden loses control and starts rolling over sideways on the sand multiple times. Lightning's dejected reaction (as seen on this page) and the flashback of Doc saying how he was just brushed aside and replaced with someone new makes the whole scene Harsher in Hindsight since both of their crashes where similar so it is logical that McQueen would be in such a funk for the past 4 months about what his crash could mean for his career (see below).
- The fact that Lightning has shut himself in Doc's old garage for four months, not talking to anyone in Radiator Springs and still sporting his primer coat after he was repaired implies he has fallen into a depression. He believes he'll be forced to retire due to his catastrophic crash because he couldn't keep up with Storm (and to a certain extent the other next generation racers) since a radio commentator said that it would be safe to assume that his racing days are over. Not helped at all by the listless tone in McQueen's voice when he talks to Sally when she checks up on him. This exchange with her sums up his whole mind set about what is going to happen once he gets back to racing.Lightning: You know they told him when he was done. He didn't decide. I don't want what happened to Doc ... to happen to me.Sally: But that hasn't happened.
- Lightning gets mad that Cruz showed him up at the demolition derby, and angrily rants at her when they're driving away in Mack.Cruz: So... trophy's kinda nice. Don't you think? (All she gets is Lightning's glare) I-I mean, I know like, you've got a billion of them, so y-you would know. (Lightning still doesn't respond) I still can't believe I won. Heheh. It's pretty shiny. I have never seen one up close. Looks like they spent a lot of money on it, I-I mean, I think it's real metal—Lightning: Stop! Just stop, OK, Cruz? You don't even know. You don't even have one clue!Cruz: Hey! I was trying to—Lightning: Do you know what happens if I lose this race?! Every mile of this trip was to get me faster than Jackson Storm. FASTER! I start off getting nowhere for a week on a simulator! I lose a whole day with you on Fireball Beach! AND THEN, I WASTE ANOTHER NIGHT IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF MISS FRITTER! I'm stuck in the same speed I was a month ago! I can't get any faster because I'M TOO BUSY TAKING CARE OF MY TRAINER! This is my last chance, Cruz. LAST! FINAL! FINITO! If I lose, I never get to do this again! If you were a racer, you'd know what I'm talking about! BUT YOU'RE NOT! SO YOU DON'T!
Cruz: Ask me if I dreamed of being a trainer, Mr McQueen, go ahead! Ask me if I got up, in the dark, to run laps before school every day! Ask me if I saved every penny to buy a ticket to the races when they came to town. Ask me if I did that so that I could be a trainer someday. Ask me.Lightning: (brief pause) Did yo-Cruz: NO! I wanted to become a racer forever! Because of you! I used to watch you on TV, flying through the air. You seemed so... fearless.
- When he says that last part, he slams against the wall, causing the trophy Cruz won in the derby to hit the ground and break. This prompts her to leave Mack's trailer and try to drive home, though not before giving McQueen a mix of a "reason you suck" and a "I used to look up to you" rant.
Cruz: Dream small, Cruz. Thats what my family used to say. Dream small, or not at all. They were just trying to protect me. But I was the fastest kid in town, and I was gonna prove them wrong.Lightning: What happened?Cruz: When I got to my first race, I figured it out.Lightning: What?Cruz: That I didnt belong. The other racers looked nothing like me, they they were bigger, and stronger and so confident. And when they started their engines, that was it. I knew Id never be a racer. just left. It was my one shot, and I didnt take it. Yeah, so, uh I-Im gonna head back to the training center. I think we both know its for the best. (starts to drive away, but turns around again) But, can I ask you something? What was it like for you, when you showed up to your first race? How did you know you could do it?
- Cruz's childhood seems even more upsetting when we learn that her own family didn't even support her, and when she finally had her shot to go up against more experienced racers, she felt she couldn't hold her own against them.
Lightning: I-I-I don't know, I... I just never thought I couldn't.
Cruz: I wish I knew what that felt like. Good luck, Mr. McQueen.
Lightning: NO! Cruz! Wait! Wait! (Cruz ignores him and he sighs)
- Cruz and Lightning race around the Thomasville track to practice. Just when it seems like Lightning is once again the racer we all know and love, he sees the younger Cruz unknowingly overtake him and pass the finish line first. Cruz's face after she realizes this is heartbreaking all by itself.
- The Rust-eze brothers invite Lightning to their state of the art training facility. Lightning is impressed and asks how the brothers could build such a facility. Turns out that the Rust-eze brothers sold their company to a richer investor and sponsor in order who could build such a facility to help Lightning out and give him the tools the brothers couldn't afford.Lightning: How did you ever do this?Dusty: We sold the company!Lightning: What?Dusty: You think a couple of jabronis like us could do this on our own?Lightning: What, you sold Rust-eze?Dusty: It's all good news, we just realized that you needed something that we couldn't give you... Besides, this Sterling fellow, he's got every high tech thing you'll ever need. Everything we wanted to give you, but couldn't.
Lightning: Well, I am sure going to miss racing for you guys.Dusty: You know, you gave us a lot of great memories Lightning, memories we'll remember.
- And then shortly after when the Rust-eze brothers say their final goodbyes to Lightning in the film, made even more poignant by the fact that Tom Magliozzi (Rusty) died three years before the film's release, making this his final performance.
- Halfway through the Florida 500, Lightning discovers Cruz is the answer to beating Storm and switches places with her so she can fulfill her dream to become a race car. Though it seems heartwarming, it's also quite bittersweet as Lightning is foregoing his bet with Sterling, in which if he doesn't win, he'll have to retire from racing for good. It was wonderful to see him coach Cruz throughout the race, but also tearjerking since there's no doubt he'll lose the bet. However, because he started the race and she finished under his number, he is considered a winner, giving the film a Surprisingly Happy Ending instead. If it weren't for the shared victory, the movie would've ended with a Bittersweet Ending in which Lightning's career finally came to an end.
- Right after Lightning's argument with Cruz, he watches "Chick's Picks" and we happen to get this particular prediction from Natalie:Natalie: Even if he does race, McQueen's probability of winning is...1.2%. Numbers...never...lie. I'm willing to predict tonight, that Lightning McQueen's racing career will be over within the week...It might even be over now.
- The scene where Brick Yardley gets fired. It's a sign that the racing world is changing and nothing will be the same anymore.
- Cal Weathers retirement. Its an emotionally depressing scene which shows one of Lightnings good friends whom he enjoyed racing with is leaving the Piston Cup forever, and will be missed badly.
- The deleted scene featuring Doc racing with Lighting McQueen, before collapsing and passing away. It was apparently so sad, that even the creators had to delete this because of how depressing it was. What is worse is that this would have made the whole scene with Primer!McQueen all the more painful to watch because it is heavily implied he was going through a depression not just what his crash could mean for his career, but also Doc's death in general. And given what happened to Doc's and Lightning's voice actors after Cars was released note , one may argue that both the deleted scene of Doc's death and the scene with Primer!McQueen sulking in Doc's garage in the final film as a double Actor Allusion(s).
- The Florida 500 went through a lot of revisions before settling on the final story; in one of the versions, Lightning never took part in the race at all, and introduced Cruz as the new #95 in his place. Out of all the alternate endings, this one was quite the most bittersweet; the creators had to ditch it because it felt like Lightning decided to stop racing all together and forego his bet with Sterling. It also felt like the whole story lost all tension and the franchise would end there had it been used.
- Taken Up to Eleven with the deleted scene More Than New Paint. Right before the Florida 500, Sterling refuses to let Lightning race even though they made a deal, because hes been secretly tracking Cruzs speeds as well as his. Upon realizing shes a better racer than him (as he deems he was teaching her), he decided to give his number to her and takes his name off the circuit, resulting in an imminent retirement. Lightnings number is ripped off, and he is forced to watch in misery as his career finally came to an end.