Junior, voiced by NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is based on the Chevrolet Monte Carlo that the real-life Earnhardt drove in the Cup Series from 1999 to 2006.
Mario Andretti, voiced by the racing legend of the same name, is based on the 1967 Ford Fairlane that the real-life Andretti drove to victory in the 1967 Daytona 500.
Michael Schumacher, voiced by the multiple Formula One champion himself, is a Ferrari F430. The real-life Schumacher won five of his seven F1 drivers' titles with the Ferrari team.
Strip "The King" Weathers, voiced by NASCAR legend Richard Petty, shares many characteristics with his voice actor. (1) Weathers is portrayed as a 1970 Plymouth Superbird, the car that Petty drove at that time. (2) He is painted in Petty's distinctive shade of blue and bears the number 43 that Petty drove for his entire NASCAR career. (3) Weathers won seven Piston Cup titles; the real-life Petty won the same number of Cup Series titles. (4) Weathers' crash at the end of the tiebreaker race is very similar to one in which Petty was involved during the 1988 Daytona 500. However, artistic license was taken the real-life crash involved six cars in all, and was not deliberately caused.
The King's wife Lynda, voiced by Richard Petty's real-life wife Lynda, is based on the 1974 Chrysler station wagon that she drove to Richard's races in the 1970s.
Cash Cow Franchise: This is the main reason it was the first Pixar franchise besides Toy Story to receive sequels, despite being among their lowest rated movies. The profits from the toy merchandise more than makes up for their dismal box office results (by Pixar standards).
Cast the Expert: The Sheriff is played by Michael Wallis, a renowned journalist and historian who has written several best-selling books on the history of the American Southwest and Route 66, the film's primary settings.
The King's crash is based, frame by frame, on an actual crash Richard Petty lived through in the Daytona 500. Though the real crash involved Petty and at least six other cars.
Doc Hudson is largely based on 2-time NASCAR champion Herb Thomas, who, in fact, won his two titles in a Hudson Hornet. While there are minor differences between the two, namely their ultimate fates, Doc Hudson is essentially Thomas in car form.
The Motor Speedway of the South is loosely modeled off of Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, where the movie was premiered, and bits are based on "Thunder Valley" - Bristol Motor Speedway. The California speedway where the finale happens does not exist, but it is possibly a substitute for Fontana's Auto Club Speedway.
Sequel Gap: Both sequels qualify for this; five years between the first film (2006) and Cars 2 (2011), and six years between Cars 2 and Cars 3 (2017).
So My Kids Can Watch: Sophia Loren did this for the Italian version of the sequel, where she played Mama Topolino. She wrote of how delighted her grandchildren were to see their grandmother in a favorite movie of theirs.
Star-Making Role: Owen Wilsons first animated feature, which is later to be recognized as one of his most iconic roles.
The movie was originally going to be called "The Yellow Car". Also, there were originally no race cars, and the main car was a foreign yellow car trying to win approval from the small town folks in the movie.
Write What You Know: Aside from his passionate love of automobiles (his father owned a car dealership, which he worked at during the summer as a teenager), the moral of slowing down and appreciating the important things in life came from John Lasseter taking time to go on a vacation with his family down the real Route 66 after spending four years making A Bug's Life and saving Toy Story 2 from Sequelitis status with no break in-between. The juxtaposition of the workoholism and the wife and children he loved gave him his own lesson in "slowing down."
This was the final film independently produced by Pixar before their 2006 merger with Disney, although this film was released after that merger.
Trivia that applies to the tie-in game:
Urban Legend of Zelda: Considering the vast majority of the characters in the console version of the game are unplayable, many players tried to come up with ways to "unlock" them for regular use, usually involving the cheat system. Ultimately, there's no way to play as any of said NPC racers without hacking.