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Western Animation / Cars 3

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"I decide when I'm done."
Lightning McQueen

Cars 3 is a 2017 Pixar movie, and the third entry in the Cars franchise. The movie focuses on Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) dealing with a new generation of Piston Cup Racing and seeking the help of a young racing technician, Cruz Ramirez, as he hopes to get back into the game. As opposed to Cars 2, this installment of the franchise makes a return to Radiator Springs, and it features the return of Larry the Cable Guy, Bonnie Hunt, and Cheech Marin as Mater, Sally, and Ramone respectively, as well as Cristela Alonzo and Armie Hammer as new characters Cruz Ramirez and Jackson Storm.

The film was released on June 16, 2017, accompanied by the theatrical short Lou.

A video game adaptation, Cars 3: Driven to Win, was released on June 13, 2017.

A short named “Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool” was included with home video releases.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer 1, Trailer 2, Trailer 3.

Cars 3 contains examples of:

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    Tropes A to E 
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Upon losing the final race and his champion title following a rather horrible crash, Lightning spends four months after being repaired isolated in Doc's garage, thinking the same thing that happened to Doc will happen to him. Sally is the one who finally gets him out.
  • 11th-Hour Ranger: Played straight with Cruz in the final race. After Lightning overhears her argument with Sterling over the mic, he decides to let her take over for him so she can succeed at her racing dream. It is her epic win against Storm that she becomes a racer and helps Lightning fulfill the bet against Sterling.
  • Abandoned Catchphrase: Lightning doesn't use his catchphrase "Ka-chow!" (or variations of it) once throughout the film.
  • Adapted Out:
    • In the junior novelization of the movie, The King does not appear when Lightning pranks Cal during the pit stop scene at the beginning of the movie. It also cuts out the part where some of the next-gens congratulate Cruz on her big win at the Florida 500 near the end.
    • Some books leave out the part where Lightning indeed does win the Florida 500 along with Cruz due to starting the race before letting her take over under his number.
  • Advertised Extra: A lot of the racers besides Lightning, Storm and Cruz, both normal and next-gen, had lots of diecasts and plaques as part of the Cars 3 exhibit in the NASCAR Hall Of Fame, but they didn't have large roles and participated as extras.
  • An Aesop:
    • The world is constantly changing and it's important to change with it, but you can always learn from the past.
    • Behind every champion is a great teacher.
    • Don’t let anyone tell you when you should retire. The only one who decides that is you.
    • You’re never too old to do something you love. Never give up your dream.
  • Affably Evil: Miss Fritter. Despite enjoying wrecking other cars in the Demolition Derby, she goes full-on fangirl when being interviewed about one of the cars she was up against being Lightning. She's even shown cheering him (and later, Cruz) on during the big race at the end.
  • Affectionate Nickname: After Lightning hasn't gone outside for 4 months, Sally begins calling him "Stinky" rather than "Stickers". She even slips up after he's cleaned up.
  • All There in the Script:
    • The child fan that fawns over Lightning and later Cruz is named in the credits as Maddy McGear.
    • The female pitty singing onstage at The Cotter Pin is named Sweet Tea.
    • Jackson Storm's crew chief, Ray Reverham, is not named in the dialogue of the film itself.
    • The names of the other normal and next-gen racers are only mentioned in merchandise.
    • As with the participants and staff of the Crazy 8s demolition derby—the gate keeper, for instance, is named Roscoe.
    • The orange-trimmed student at the racing center who mocks Lightning during the “drip pan” exercise is named Aiden.
    • The janitor that Lightning imagines telling him to retire is named Millie.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The film has an ending theme exclusive to the Japanese version, titled "Engine" by Tamio Okuda, which is about coming to a crossroads in one's life. In fact, the title for the Japanese version of the film is "Cars: Crossroads".
  • Always Someone Better: Jackson Storm and the other Next Gen racers are practically designed to be faster and more powerful than Lightning's NASCAR-style generation. Cruz is also this to Lightning to a lesser extent, and this acts as part of McQueen's motivation to have her race in his place at the Florida 500.
    • You can see this in the beginning of the movie, as all of Lightning McQueen's peers are replaced one by one by younger racers, and Lightning overhears one of his friends being unceremoniously dumped by his sponsor, despite winning multiple races the year before.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Lightning's career is saved, and Cruz fulfills her dream of becoming a racer, with Lightning as her teacher.
  • And This Is for...: At the start of the movie when Lightning is exiting his trailer, he looks at a photo of Doc on the wall and says, "This one’s for you, Doc."
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Jackson to Lightning at the start of the Los Angeles 500:
    Jackson: Hey, Champ...where'd all your friends go?
  • Artistic License – Sports: Face it, in a real NASCAR race, Jackson's finishing move of deliberately slamming Cruz into a wall and pinning her there would earn him an instant black flag, DQ, and probably a fat fine to boot, but Rule of Drama plays out as Cruz escapes by side-flipping over him, echoing Doc Hudson's finishing move shown earlier.
  • Animation Bump: The movie’s animation is much more improved than the past two installments. In addition to Scenery Porn, the characters’ eyes are a bit larger and more Animesque, and their faces are more emotive than before. The detailing on Lightning’s headlights are also more resembling of real-life headlights, having become slightly dulled in appearance, and coated with visible translucent lines.
    • Lighting and reflections have also received a serious bump - especially noticeable when Lightning first enters the Rust-eze Racing Center.
  • Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: Cruz felt this way toward Lightning when he is about to use the simulator. Sterling also felt this way when Lightning pesters him to give him one more chance after he considers taking him off the racing circuit.
    • Cruz felt this way again when he decided to let her take over for him mid-race and is worried because he's giving up his expected comeback and is willingly going to lose the bet against Sterling.
  • Art Shift: Though there remains a slightly anthropomorphized edge to the character animation, the look of the film focuses more on looking realistic than its more stylized predecessors. The racing scenes in particular are especially more resembling of actual races.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Not that they were Living Props in the other two movies, but Luigi and Guido are given more prominent roles here as they accompany Lightning in most of his journeys over the course of the movie.
    • Also, Doc Hudson in a sense. After only receiving a few passing mentions in Cars 2, he posthumously plays a major part in this movie.
  • Aside Glance: Lightning gives an annoyed eyeroll toward the audience during the crazy workout routine with Cruz on his first day of training.
  • Ass Shove: During the demolition derby, Fairgame the taxi cab crashes into the back of Dr. Damage the ambulance.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: The new generation of racers are the product of a lot of number crunching to create every little edge. Lightning struggles to compete with racers designed and trained by big data.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Four months after his crash, Lightning still sports the coat of primer he received after being repaired, having never bothered to get himself repainted. Could also double as Covered with Scars since there are lighter patches on his fenders, quarter panels, and roof where he got the most damaged.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Lightning shows a handful of these every time Jackson insults him or overtakes him during a race. When he overtakes him in the Los Angeles 500, this causes Lightning to completely snap and furiously push himself to the max.
      • Lightning also became offended every time someone called him old or unfit, though on a minor detail and is played up for humor.
    • Jackson shows loads of these when Cruz makes fun of him during the Florida 500.
  • The Bet: Lightning has to win the first big race of the season, or he'll have to give up racing forever.
  • Between My Legs: When Jackson Storm is introduced, appearing out of nowhere to take the lead, the camera shows his front tires rolling over it.
  • Big "NO!": Lightning screams this, along with a Rapid-Fire "No!" out of desperation, seconds before his crash. He screams another when he is losing control at the simulator and literally launches himself into the projector screen.
  • Big "YES!": By Cruz after she suddenly overtakes Lightning at the last practice race before she realizes what she did.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Sterling is introduced as being openly friendly to Lightning and Cruz, even calling himself one of the former's fans. However, he secretly wants Lightning to retire so he can take over as the Rust-eze sponsor, and repeatedly bickers with Cruz saying she can't be a racer throughout the Florida 500. After Cruz takes over and proves Sterling wrong, his true nature is revealed once she and Lightning are announced as joint-winners.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Subverted. It's somewhat too sad to see Lightning never race again, but it's comforting to see he hasn't given up the sport after sharing the victory with Cruz. He transitioned as a racing coach for new racer, Cruz, who has accomplished her dream of becoming a racer when she (and a few others) thought she wouldn't.
    • On a side-note which plays this trope straight, Jackson Storm lost his winning streak, and Lightning has won his bet with Sterling and gets to keep his job, but the fates of the other veterans remain unknown and it's likely we'll never see them again.
  • Book Ends:
    • The first movie begins with Lightning in his first year as a racer. In this film, he faces an imminent retirement and tries to avoid it.
    • The movie begins and ends with a race. Also, The last race of the first film ends with the rookie Lightning McQueen choosing to help an old racing legend finish his last race. In Cars 3's last race, he's an old racing legend who doesn't finish but gives up his place to a rookie, and they both win. Both films also end with a racing legend becoming a rookie's personal mentor when not racing (Doc, who is retired, becomes one to Lightning, whist Lightning himself becomes one to Cruz).
    • In the junior novelization, instead of Motor Speedway of the South, the opening race took place at Florida International Speedway. In other words, the Florida 500 occurs at the beginning and end.
    • Cal Weathers is the first veteran race car in the film Lightning interacts with, as well as the last one following his retirement. He is also the first and the last veteran racer to be seen throughout the film.
    • The first movie featured a Rust-Eze affiliated racer (Lightning) aiming to become the new face of Dinoco. By the end of this film, a Rust-Eze affiliated racer (Cruz) actually manages to do it.
  • Breaking Old Trends: Unlike the first two, this exchange is absent, instead just having Tex take Sterling aside to talk billionaire-to-billionaire...
    Old character: If there's anything you need, just let me know.
    Main character: I sure appreciate that. Thank you. (Beat) Actually, there is one thing... (Gilligan Cuts to the request, usually a Brick Joke from earlier, being fulfilled)
    • Same with this:
    Lightning: You know who you're talking to, this is Lightning McQueen. I can handle anything. (Gilligan Cut to the random request he's asked to do)
  • Break Them by Talking: During the final race, when Cruz catches up to Storm the first time, he gives her a Trash Talk to throw her off his trail and slow her down, while Lightning tries to warn her not to believe a word he says. As Cruz starts to feel that he got to her, Lightning tells her that it's a sign that she got to him, as Jackson wouldn't have willingly slowed down into second place just to taunt her had he not felt threatened by her.
  • Brick Joke:
    • At the start during the Dinoco Light 350, Lightning tricks Cal by telling him "Your blinker's on!". Near the end after the Florida 500, Danny gives the same joke to Cruz.
    • While Lightning is on the simulator, Jackson appears as one of his “opponents” for motivation, as Cruz points out. The same later occurs with Jackson during the montage of Smokey and the Legends helping Lightning prepare for the Florida 500.
  • Broken Record: Whenever Lightning loses Cruz during their training montage at Fireball Beach:
    Hamilton: Out of range. Out of range. Out of range.
    • Also when Lightning destroys the simulator:
    Simulator voice: You have crashed. You have crashed. You have crashed.
  • The Bus Came Back: Bob Cutlass, the announcer alongside Darrell Cartrip from the first film who hasn't been seen since then, finally returns in this movie. Chick Hicks, the King, Tex Dinoco and the Rust-Eze brothers also return after being absent from Cars 2.
  • But Now I Must Go: When Lightning is suddenly overtaken by Cruz in their last practice race before the Florida 500, Lightning realizes there's no more time to practice and they should depart for Florida immediately.
  • But Thou Must!: At the Thunder Hollow Crazy 8, once the gate closes you must race, with no way out.
  • Butt-Monkey: The King's nephew; Cal Weathers is the butt of many jokes throughout the first half of the movie. It gets bad enough that Tex Dinoco talks about replacing him with Lightning in front of his face after a race. Lightning becomes one with a dose of Dude, Where's My Respect? add in to through out most of the movie post crash. He is relentlessly teased about his age by Cruz (who says she's a fan of his) and Smokey and the racing legends who are ironically several decades older than him.
  • Call-Back:
    • The film opens the same way as the original film - a black screen intercut with footage of racing cars, while McQueen goes through his pre-racing ritual.
    • During the Demolition Derby, Lightning tells Cruz to "turn right to go left", a teaching Doc gave him in the first film. Much like Lightning at that time, Cruz doesn't see any sense in his words.
    • When Cruz reveals her idolization of McQueen, she says she used to watch him "flying through the air", referencing when Lightning leaped through the smoke during the pile-up in the first movie.
      • A picture of the scene itself can be seen at the museum in the Rust-eze Racing Center and on Smokey's bulletin board.
    • Mater is in the pits watching all of McQueen's races, showing that McQueen kept his promise.
    • Luigi starts Lightning and Cruz's beach race and later their first driving lesson together the same way he started the race with Lightning and Doc in the first film.
    • Just before Lightning's crash, one of his back tires explodes and he swerves dangerously, like what happened at the Dinoco 400 in the first film (though he lost his left tire then, here he lost his right).
    • The last thing Lightning says before his crash is "NO!"; in the second film, Rod "Torque" Redline said the same thing just before the Lemons make him burn to death.
    • The Florida 500 has many parallels to the Los Angeles tiebreaker race:
      • The race begins with Lightning in the far back.
      • Lightning struggles to maintain the lead.
      • Lightning is distracted with flashbacks of his experience with someone else.
      • A crew chief makes a surprise appearance (Smokey for Lightning, Lightning himself for Cruz).
      • Lightning willingly resigns from the race halfway through to let Cruz take over under his number, like when he gave up first place to Chick in order to help The King after his crash.
      • After Cruz takes over, she has to beat the pace car so she isn't a lap down, like how Lightning did after getting his rapid fire pit stop from Guido.
      • When Lightning skids onto the infield on the last lap, he uses Doc's "turn right to go left" technique to take the lead. When Cruz is rammed into the wall by Jackson on the last lap, she uses Doc's "flip over the racer" technique from Smokey's flashback to overtake Jackson and win.
      • After she wins the Florida 500 for Lightning, Cruz turns down the offer to race for Sterling and resigns as a trainer, and chooses to race for Dinoco instead. In the first film, Lightning willingly turns down the Dinoco sponsorship in favor of Rust-eze, having learned the film's moral.
      • After the tiebreaker race, Doc says to Lightning, "You've got a lot of stuff, kid." Following the Florida 500 after Lightning wins his bet with Sterling and Cruz being surrounded by the paparazzi, he quotes to himself, "Kid's got a lot of, Doc?".
      • Lightning is offered the Dinoco sponsorship even though he lost, but turns it down and keeps Rust-eze. Following the fact he won his bet with Sterling after being considered a winner along with Cruz, Lightning decides to continue racing. In addition, both decisions are followed by a request being fulfilled, though not word-per-word (Mater riding in the Dinoco helicopter, Lightning signing as Cruz's crew chief for the rest of the season).
      • Lightning shows up in a different paint job in the final scene following each race (his half racing, half Radiator Springs getup in the first, his "Fabulous Lightning McQueen" getup in the third), both of which he wears throughout the Credits Montage.
    • Lightning FINALLY is part of racing under Dinoco's banner, a goal he'd looked forward to in the first film... since Rust-Eze is now a wholly-owned subsidiary OF Dinoco!
    • The press conference following the Gears and Glory 450 is virtually similar to the press conference following the Tokyo race of the World Grand Prix in Cars 2. The rival Lightning competed against (Jackson here, Francesco then) won first place and is being interviewed, and he proceeds to insult him with a random statement. Lightning even rolls his eyes and responds with a scoff followed by "You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!", just before sneaking away to attain to something else, similar to his reaction in the past film.
    • Lightning's shocked reaction right when he is about to crash is similar to said reaction during the Willy's Butte race in the first film when he is about to hit the cactus.
    • At the end of the film, during Lightning and Cruz's first driving lesson together at Willy’s Butte, Cruz teases Lightning and says, "Bring it on, old man!" This is a call-back to the epilogue from the first film when Lightning teases Doc and says, "Not today, old man!" during their first driving lesson together.
    • Cruz's acrobatic roll during the Florida 500 heavily parodies Lightning's astonishing jump at the Dinoco 400 in Cars. Both were also shown in dramatic slow motion.
    • Just before Lightning heads into the pits to switch places with Cruz, he encounters a massive crash between the other cars, similar to the crash he encountered in Cars 1. In both instances, he came out completely undamaged.
    • The newspaper depicting Doc's crash is seen on the wall in both Doc's and Smokey's garages.
    • The raised, Le Mans-esque spoilers worn by Jackson and the next-gens look very much like the one Lightning had during the World Grand Prix.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Cruz gives a rather harsh one to Lightning in response to his tirade a few minutes ago, revealing that she always wanted to be a racer like him but gave up on her dreams and became a trainer instead. She gives another, though minor one to Sterling just after she helps Lightning finish the Florida 500, stating she would never race for him and quits her job. The junior novel pushes this even further by letting her say she'd rather quit than to race for him.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Inverted. McQueen's crash on the racetrack is just as disturbing and upsetting as the trailer showed, though the scenes where Lightning crashes into the simulator and the Demolition Derby (which revolves entirely around cars violently crashing into each other) are Played for Laughs.
  • Central Theme: Growing up and learning to accept your age and preparing for an imminent retirement if it happens.
  • Chaste Toons: The King (voiced by Richard Petty) and Cal (voiced by Richard's son Kyle) are uncle and nephew.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Cruz Ramirez uses Doc Hudson's acrobatic roll in the finale to win the race, and before that, almost everything else she learned in Thomasville.
  • Chair Reveal: This is how Cruz is introduced, though it's not a chair, but the simulator platform.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Finn McMissile, Holley Shiftwell and the other agents from Cars 2 are not seen or mentioned in this movie. It is also never mentioned whether or not Mater and Holley became a couple after the implications at the end of that film.
    • A lot of the stock cars that raced alongside Lightning in the first film are strangely absent here. Inversely, many of them are said to be veterans despite not appearing in the first film or the games that precede it.
  • Circling Monologue: Cruz does this to Lightning upon their first encounter, suggesting he's an imposter but is actually testing him.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The good guys are full of color (Lightning and Cruz), while the bad guys are black and white (Storm and Sterling).
    • Bright is safe (the veteran racers, Radiator Springs and its folk, the Dinoco Light 350 and Florida 500 races, the Rust-Eze Racing Center, Fireball Beach, Willy's Butte, Tex, the winner board that shows Lightning and Cruz’s shared win), dark and disaturated is unsafe (the next-gens, Lightning's starting paint job, the Dinoco 400 and Los Angeles 500 races, Thunder Hollow, the "Chick's Picks" set, the various speedways shown during Storm’s winning streak), and grey and monochrome is corrupted (Lightning's primer, the simulator, Sterling). Thomasville, Smokey, the Legends, and Lightning's flashbacks have a hint of old-fashioned vibrancy.
  • Color Motif: Lightning's paint job at the start of the film is a bit more muted red than his past ones (this is especially noticeable when he's getting a pit stop and he's next to the crew chief stand, which is his usual vibrant shade), which implies he is being blindsided by the new racers and unintentionally foreshadows his fateful crash. Post-accident, his paintwork is back to the bright vivid red as usual, indicating he is once again confident and ready for anything.
    • The primer grey coat that Lightning has for 4 months after being repaired is meant to show how he's become a ghost of his former self. He even looks a bit ghost-like since the grey makes him appear to blend in to the concrete pavement and dark spots.
    • The electronic suit Lightning wears for most of the film is a more darker, metallic red than his usual paint job, representing he has literally "darkened" from racing slightly and is struggling to get back on top. Though this could be to make him have a general appearance of the Next-gens as well.
  • Comically Missing the Point: During his training in Thomasville, the racing legends take Lightning out driving in the woods at night with no headlights on like they used to in their youths. When Lightning questions the point of it he's given several none-too-subtle hints about what they were doing but fails to get it each time. Finally one of them gets tired of the metaphors and explains, "We ran moonshine!"
  • Company Cross References: A shelf in Sterling's office has Cinderella's carriage on it.
  • Continuity Cameo: Terrence aka the Pizza Planet Truck appears as one of the participants at the demolition derby.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Jeff Gorvette, one of the World Grand Prix racers from Cars 2, has a cameo appearance shortly before the Florida 500 when Lightning arrives.
    • Chick often gloats about beating Lightning in the first film, and is always seen holding the only Piston Cup he ever won in his racing career. Of course, he neglects to mention that the only reason he won was that Lightning stopped before the finish line.
    • Various pictures from the first film can be seen on the diorama at the racing center entrance, and on the newspapers in Smokey's garage.
  • Costume Evolution: Cruz’s progression from trainer to full-fledged racer is reflected in the changes to her paintwork. Initially beginning solely gold with the racing center’s insignia, she first has a #20 spraypainted on her doors, undergoes a massive redesign in Smokey’s garage where she gets the parts that a race car can use, has a gaudy #95 added and the racing center insignia removed when she takes over for Lightning mid-race, and finally trades this look for various racing decals and her own number, Doc’s #51, showing she’s now an official racer.
  • Covers Always Lie: Several of the movie posters show the three main leads in a race on Fireball Beach (as seen on this page), either together or on separate photos. While this does indeed happen, Jackson Storm does not go to Fireball Beach, only Lightning and Cruz do. Lightning is also shown wearing his usual paint job, whilst he wears his electronic suit when he goes there in the film.
    • Also in said posters and in a promotional video, Jackson's front headlights are lit as if they were real, when in real life, race cars don't have actual working lights. He never has them lit throughout the film, suggesting they're fake. Cruz also has her headlights lit in several promotional shots, but she never switches them on once throughout the film (save for the scenes where she activates Hamilton making them light up blue, though it's not an actual light source, and for a brief moment during the forest scene, though barely noticeable in the distance behind Lightning).
    • Not once throughout the film do we see Cruz's starting appearance alongside Lightning's regular racing getup (as seen in several posters and promotional spots), as he has his electronic suit on throughout that time. By the time he reverts to his regular appearance, Cruz is wearing her Jackson Storm disguise; from there, she changes to the gaudy Rust-eze paint job to help Lightning, and finally to the Dinoco paint job she receives at the end of the movie.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Meta-example. The directors at Pixar recorded almost everything Paul Newman said during the taping of Cars 1, to the point they had over 25 hours of footage of Newman talking, be it takes for the film, random anecdotes or just general chat. 10 years later, and eight years after his death, this footage paid off as they were able to get Newman to posthumously reprise his role through the recorded footage.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits are presented on the wall of Doc's garage, showing photos of Lightning and Cruz as they enjoy the rest of the racing season together as a team, with her as the racer and him as the crew chief.
  • Cultural Translation: Several background elements and text were modified if the film is watched in a language other than English:
    • The text on the three jars of dirt as part of the plaque leading into the racing center were changed from simple typed out text to actual logos of each respective destination. The description next to said jars was also changed to match the region's language.
    • The graphics during the simulator scene were removed.
    • While in Sterling's office and Lightning is looking at the array of various himself merchandise, the "Ka-chow Mix" was changed to "Vroom Mix" and the "Ka-chow" on the mud flaps are removed.
    • After the Florida 500 when the view cuts to the jumbotron showing Lightning and Cruz's shared victory, "UPDATING" is replaced with an elipsis, the word "WINNER!" is replaced with a #1, and Lightning's name is shortened to simply "McQueen".
    • When Lightning reveals his "Fabulous Lightning McQueen" paint job at Willy's Butte, the "LIGHTNING" part of his logo is replaced with a single flash bolt, and the "For Doc Hudson" sticker on his back bumper is edited to match the region's language.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: When Sterling finds out he lost the bet with Lightning due to he and Cruz sharing the number, Tex hires Cruz as Dinoco's racer and forces Sterling to sell Rust-eze to him for an unspecified amount, presumably firing him.
  • Darker and Edgier: The 50 second long teaser trailer, featuring Lightning being brutally damaged in a horrible crash, implied that Pixar was taking a step back into a more serious direction. Though this becomes ultimately averted, seeing as the comedic premises remain in the movie.
  • Darkest Hour: After the Crazy 8, Lightning is upset that he’s come no close to being faster than Storm, Cruz resigns as his trainer, and Natalie predicts Lightning’s retirement is imminent, which shakes his confidence.
  • Dark Is Evil: Jackson Storm is black with metallic blue accents, showing he’s Lightning’s main enemy.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: River Scott and Junior Moon have dark, faded paint jobs, but they’re two of the retired racers that help Lightning get his mojo back.
  • Daydream Surprise: While Lightning is waiting outside Sterling's office as Cruz talks to him following the mayhem at the simulator, he stares at a worker washing the floor and one second later, she appears in front of him saying he's "all washed up". Lightning is nervous, only to see her far away again, informing him that the floor is all washed up.
  • The Day the Music Lied: When Jackson outruns Lightning, he struggles to catch up to him as the background music swells dramatically...then his back tire explodes, causing him to lose control and crash as the music stops, before resuming on an ominous chord as the ambulances surround him.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Miss Fritter winds up becoming a fan of Lightning and later, Cruz after being defeated at the Crazy 8. Some of the next-gens congratulate Cruz for the big win after the Florida 500.
  • Demoted to Extra: Mater has only a few scenes after being the protagonist of Cars 2.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Cruz vs. Mrs. Fritters. (For mechanical values of "girl".)
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: With a lap to go during the Florida 500, Jackson decides to ram Cruz into the wall and taunt her despite being in the lead, his words eventually causing her to gain hope and flip over him, winning the race.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: River reveals to Lightning and Cruz that Louise used to have a huge crush on Doc, but he rejected her because he didn't have a thing for women who were fast.
  • Disney Death: The horrible crash that Lightning suffers during the Los Angeles 500 counts as this, since right when he comes to a stop, he lies unconscious as he steams up, and his pit crew and the ambulances start surrounding him with extreme worry. The junior novel manages to point out that he almost didn't make it, and Sally checked him for any signs of life. The read-along book even states that "his whole world went black".
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: Lightning initially tries to chat things up with the legends at Smokey's bar. They almost immediately go to guessing he's there to learn some new tricks from them.
    Lightning: Wow, you guys don't mince words here, do you?
    Smokey: Truth is always quicker, kid.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: Subverted. Even though Lightning drops out of the Florida 500 halfway through to let Cruz take over and she warns him it's his last chance, he doesn't technically get disqualified. Because Cruz had Lightning's #95 when she crossed the finish line (the rule says only the number has to be on the track, it doesn't matter who wears it), they both share the win, meaning Lightning has won the bet with Sterling and doesn't have to retire.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • After his crash, Lightning is in a grey primer, and finally exits Doc’s garage after four months of isolation to answer Rusty and Dusty’s phone call. Prior to being repainted, Ramone quips that Lightning can’t race in primer; viewers would assume going outside in primer would be the car equivalent of running in the nude.
    • The way Cruz is treated as a racer can bring to mind how female athletes may be treated in a predominantly male sport. Her gender isn't explicitly brought up, but the use of automobile euphemisms makes it resemble the real-life stigma.
  • Doomed New Clothes:
    • At the beginning of the film, Lightning is wearing a slightly different version of his usual Rust-Eze look complete with a contemporary logo. This only lasts until the Los Angeles 500, where it is heavily ruined during the big crash scene, and changes back to his traditional garb following his 10-Minute Retirement.
    • After reaching the racing center, Lightning is fitted into an electronic suit which he wears for the majority of his training. It is finally ripped to shreds and comes apart during the midnight forest run with Smokey and the retired legends.
    • When Lightning is switching out with Cruz, she is given a rather odd Rust-Eze paint job by Ramone, which gets badly damaged by Storm ramming her into the wall.
  • Downer Beginning: The film starts with Lightning in the new Piston Cup season, enjoying his time as a champion. Then Jackson Storm enters, causing several racers to retire or be fired by their sponsors over the course of the season so a next-gen can take their place. At the Los Angeles 500, Jackson and two other next-gens overtake Lightning, he pushes himself as hard as he can to catch up, then he loses control and crashes violently, leaving Jackson to win the race and the Piston Cup and him to worry about his future in the months that follow.
  • Due to the Dead: At the end of the film, once Cruz became a race car, she has the number 51, which was Doc's in his racing days. Lightning also changed into a navy blue paint scheme reminiscent of Doc's, with similar decals and a logo reading "FABULOUS LIGHTNING MCQUEEN", to continue his memory. His back bumper even reads "For Doc Hudson".
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Smokey makes his first appearance in old Doc Hudson racing footage. He isn't seen again until Lightning finds him.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: By switching places and letting Cruz take the finish line for him, Lightning not only manages to save his racing career from retirement, he also becomes a mentor to Cruz, like Doc was to him.
    • Also one for Cruz, in that she never wanted to be a trainer to begin with, having choked on her big break...
  • End of an Age: The NASCAR-style stock racers like McQueen are quickly being sidelined by new GT3/Le Mans-style racers such as Jackson Storm.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: While talking with Mater in his trailer, Lightning says he would do anything to talk to Doc, and Mater reminds him of who taught him. This gives Lightning the idea to go to Thomasville and consult Doc's former crew chief Smokey.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • Jackson Storm can be seen as this to Lightning McQueen. His name is basically an alternate form of Lightning's, and has a similar flash bolt motif. He basically acts the same way Lightning did when he was introduced, being arrogant, rotten and self-centered, only caring about himself and focused solely on winning. To top it all off, he is the one who wins the Los Angeles 500, becoming the first rookie to win the Piston Cup which is a goal that Lightning tried to fulfill in the first film.
    • Sterling appears to be this to Tex Dinoco. After taking over as the Rust-eze owner from Rusty and Dusty, he claims himself to be Lightning's fan when really, he wants him to retire so he can take over as the sponsor, and repeatedly tries to prevent Cruz from racing because she's not a racer herself. Tex, however, is a true friend and fan of Lightning, and it shows when he forces Sterling to sell Rust-eze to him so Lightning can continue racing, and hires Cruz as Dinoco's main racer.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Jackson Storm and Cruz are of a higher level than Lightning McQueen.
  • Exact Words:
    • McQueen technically wins the Florida 500 (see also Truth in Television below), despite not being the number 95 car that finished the race, so he wins his bet against Sterling and doesn't have to retire.
    • He also gets his original wish to race for Dinoco despite him promising to stay with Rust-eeze thanks to Tex buying it and making it a subsidiary.
  • Expanded Universe:
    • The Cars Origins chapter book series which ties in with the release of the movie, telling the origins of the three leads.
    • Roughly two months before the release of the movie, a book titled Lead the Way was published. The book happens to occur after the movie's events since it spoils the fact that Cruz is now a race car and Lightning is her personal teacher, who is narrating the book's events to her (and the reader) about being a good leader. The events of the book also happen to fall at least a whole year after the movie's finale since Lightning and Cruz are racing alongside each other in the last few pages, while Lightning was acting as Cruz's crew chief throughout her debut season as shown in the Creative Closing Credits.
  • Eye Cam: When Lightning is disturbed by Mater at the beginning of the movie, we get a shot through his eyes as he opens them to look at him standing before him in the trailer.
  • Eye Scream: Cruz does this with one of her students on the treadmills by throwing bugs in his face.

    Tropes F to K 
  • Face Death with Dignity: Not literal death, but following the arrival of Jackson Storm, Cal Weathers decides to retire upon following what his uncle told him when it was time, which disappoints Lightning. The other veterans either retired or got fired by their sponsors so the next-gens can take their places.
  • Fake Shemp: A necessity to finish Doc Hudson's story without the late Paul Newman. Dialogue that didn't make it into the first film as well as stories Newman told on-set were repurposed for his appearances in this film.
  • Failure Montage: Cruz messing up her attempts to stay behind Lightning at Fireball Beach, due to her inexperience outdoors. She fails to take off, crashes constantly, sinks into the sand, and stops abruptly because she doesn't want to hit a crab.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Jackson is open and superficially friendly, but always has a couple of harsh barbs at hand. Cruz, Lightning and all the other racers are shown throwing barbs at each other, however it's shown in their case to be just fun jibes that they clearly never truly mean.
  • The Final Temptation: While Cruz is taking over for Lightning mid-race, she is taunted by Storm who says she won't be a racer at all, only for Lightning's words of encouragement to get her back in the game. He then rams her into a wall by yelling the same thing, only for her to regain hope once more and flips over him for the win.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • In the Los Angeles 500, when Guido finishes with Lightning's pit stop, the camera focuses on Lightning's back right tire which emits smoke and dust. He also lurches a bit just before he returns to the track. We also get a few shots of said tire with his exhaust pipes blazing indefinitely as he tries to catch up. This is but moments before Lightning's horrible crash, which initiates with said tire blowing out.
    • At the end of the film, whilst Lightning isn't present at the moment, Ramone can be seen wearing a paint job that looks very much like Doc's. Guess what paint job Lightning comes in wearing seconds later!
  • Flashback Cut: Lightning experiences four of them throughout the film:
    • First when he is in his trailer doing his pre-race ritual, when he remembers a driving lesson with Doc.
    • Second after he sees the footage of Doc's crash and remembers the same scene from the first movie how he gave up racing forever as a result of it.
    • Third when in Smokey's garage when he learns the best part of Doc's life was not racing but himself, and we get flashbacks from their wonderful times with each other.
    • Fourth during the Florida 500 when he hears Sterling over the mic demand Cruz to return to the racing center because she's not a racer but a trainer, and he remembers her saying she dreamed of becoming one all her life following the incident at Thunder Hollow, inspiring him to let her race in his place to fulfill her dream.
  • Foil:
    • Jackson Storm is one to Lightning McQueen. He is a rude, arrogant, hotshot rookie racer, which is exactly how Lightning was in the first film.
    • Lightning himself has become one to Doc Hudson and the King, needing to choose between retiring with dignity (give in), being forced into retirement (give up), or trying to Take a Third Option (give it all you've got).
    • Jackson and Cruz have completely different attitudes in regards to Lightning. Jackson sees him as someone to beat, while Cruz truly admires him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • One of the biggest themes in the movie is Master-Apprentice Chain. Doc and Lightning were both injured during a racing tournament and both end up becoming coaches to a newer model car. Unlike Doc however, Lightning doesn't retire.
    • There were subtle hints that Cruz would become a racer:
      • Cruz is painted vibrant gold, nearly matching the gold lightning bolt motif that Lightning has.
      • When testing the simulator when she first appears, she gets a simulator speed which is as good as Lightning's own quoted top speed prior to his return to form.
      • During a demolition derby competition, one of the workers spray paints the number "20" on her for the game.
      • When Smokey brings up how Lightning wasn't injured in the above demolition derby the viewer may also notice that neither was Cruz, despite her being a rookie. Also what isn't noticed by Smokey is that Lightning WAS injured, losing a tire, but Cruz came out completely undamaged.
      • Lightning and Cruz's training session on the beach heavily foreshadows him becoming her mentor, as despite his frustration with having to teach her how to drive on sand, he keeps at it. And by the end, Cruz is able to keep up with him.
      • The same thing happens at the demolition derby as Lightning spends over half the race yelling instructions to Cruz on how to survive the onslaught. This is even when he gives her the same advice Doc gave him all those years ago of "turning right to go left".
      • Just when Lightning announces he’ll go to Thunder Hollow to compete with real racers, as Luigi is speaking Cruz can be seen slumping dejectedly. This foreshadows she wanted to be a racer like Lightning, but lost her only chance.
    • Lightning's paint job is slightly different at the beginning, specifically he is a bit desaturated red and the Rust-eze logos on his hood, fenders, spoiler, and bumper are in a more modernized font than the usual. This foreshadows that the new generation of high-tech racers are about to show up, and therefore blindside him to the point of his unintentional fateful crash at the Los Angeles 500.
      • The contemporary design of the Rust-eze logo on Lightning's first paint job also foreshadows the introduction of the Rust-eze Racing Center, and the electronic suit he receives there which also features a contemporary version of said logo.
    • When Lightning's electronic suit rips off in the forest and he lands back on the ground after his astounding jump, the #95 shred lands against a rock. Minutes later at the last practice race, Cruz suddenly overtakes Lightning before the finish. At the Florida 500, he leaves the race halfway through and lets Cruz take over.
      • Cruz suddenly overtaking Lightning in the final practice race foreshadows her overtaking Jackson at the Florida 500.
    • When Lightning meets Jackson for the first time, he says to him, "You have no idea what a pleasure it is for me to finally beat you." Not only is this a playful Stealth Insult, it foreshadows the arrival of the next-gens, who eventually cause Lightning to suffer a horrible crash when trying to catch up, and Jackson eventually wins the Piston Cup. And to add insult to injury, Jackson becomes the first rookie to win the Piston Cup, which was a goal that Lightning had during Cars 1.
    • When we cut to Lighting's crew as he passes the next-gens one by one in the Los Angeles 500, all are smiling confidently (Mater even cheers him on), but Guido looks worried, as if something might go wrong. Guess what happens to Lightning just a few minutes later!
    • During the Florida 500, while Lightning passes racer by racer causing his position on the scoring pylon to go up one by one, his number flashes twice as it advances, while the position that moved down doesn't. Though this is intentional, it foreshadows his shared victory with Cruz, caused by her finishing the race under his number. The double flash also hints at two racers under the same number, which what happens halfway through the race.
    • Mater wears a hat to every race he attends except the Los Angeles 500, which hints at Lightning's struggle (leading to the iconic crash scene) later on.
      • Similarly, the hat Mater wears to the Florida 500 is a Piston Cup with Lightning's #95 on the front. It unintentionally foreshadows Lightning will indeed win the race, but with the help of Cruz.
    • Lightning’s problem throughout the film was hinted at even in the very first scene. Besides the different paint job as mentioned above, he suffers a flashback of he and Doc having a driving lesson together, and he happens to deliver this particular line:
    Doc: Ha, that ain't racing. That wasn't even a Sunday drive. That was one lap racing is 500 of those; everybody fightin' to move up, lap after lap, inside, outside, inches apart, never touchin' that's racing.
    • Cruz's interaction with the three students prior to meeting Lightning for the first time foreshadows her tactics to winning the Florida 500 following taking over for Lightning mid-race. First, she calms down Ronald by helping him say "I am a fluffy cloud"; Lightning pesters Smokey to tell Cruz the same thing to build her confidence. Second, she sprays bugs in Kurt's face as an exercise to see the track even when facing an obstacle; Cruz uses the "sneak through the window" trick to get around the racers and eventually drafts up to Storm's behind. Finally, she helps Gabriel think of his hometown Santa Cecelia, and tells him, "win for them!"; This line hints at her managing to beat Storm by admitting she is a racer after all and flips over him, causing her to win and share the victory with Lightning which causes him to win the bet against Sterling.
    • Right before Lightning switches with Cruz and the gang is getting her ready, Smokey points out the rules only say the number has to be on the track and it doesn't matter who has to wear it, foreshadowing the shared victory between the two cars that Cruz ignites after the race.
    • A very subtle hint of foreshadowing regarding Lightning's crash is seen whenever the pit lane at either racetrack is shown: All of the racers have crew chiefs, but Lightning does not, like in the first film. With no one to give him directions and hints, he'll eventually suffer something bad.
    • The King's presence at the beginning of the movie is rather prominent, a subtle hint that showed when he talked with Lightning in the first film when he was arrogant. Jackson Storm, a rookie that shows up later that acted the same way Lightning did, causes something that'll change everything.
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • Had not Jackson Storm showed up near the end of the Dinoco 400 and overtook Lightning for the win, the movie's plot wouldn't have happened in the first place.
    • Basically Lightning wouldn't have tried to get himself back into shape had not Rusty and Dusty sold Rust-eze to Sterling so he could build the training center.
    • Sterling also wouldn't have considered Lightning to retire if he didn't destroy the simulator and follow Cruz's routines as planned.
    • As Lightning and Cruz reach Thomasville, Cruz asks Lightning how he knows that Doc's trainer Smokey will be there, or if he's even still alive. Lightning admits he doesn't know either. Luckily for them, Smokey is indeed still alive and living in Thomasville, or else Lightning wouldn't have regained his confidence and be convinced to let Cruz take over for him in the race.
    • If Sterling's rant about Cruz not being a racer hadn't been witnessed and heard by Lightning during the Florida 500, he would've managed to run the entire race himself, without asking her to help him so she can fulfill her dream.
  • Four Is Death: Lightning’s horrible crash occurred at lap 461, with 40 laps to go. In addition, he was in fourth place when he crashes.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • During the scenes inside the Cozy Cone Motel office, though it's hard to be noticed, a photo of Lightning and Sally can be seen on the shelves.
    • On the plaque leading into the Rust-eze Racing Center, a description near the three jars of dirt and sand states Doc's last race was the Fireball Beach 500, and by the time of the film, Lightning has won seven Piston Cups. The latter description is listed during the Florida 500 opening newscast, when Natalie reports his expected comeback.
    • A picture of Miles Axelrod can be closely seen on one of the shelves in Sterling's office. The couple Mater witnessed kissing each other in Paris also appears for a brief moment on Lightning's TV.
    • At the Los Angeles 500, though it's implied Lightning is the only veteran left, there are actually six participants who are veterans. All are replaced by next-gens by the Florida 500.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: Lightning spends the bulk of the film trying to prove that he's not too old to keep racing and shouldn't retire just yet. By the climax, he realizes Cruz wanted to be a racer just like he is, and resigns from the race halfway through so she can take over. When she wins, she turns down the deal to race for Sterling and chooses to race for Dinoco instead, and when Lightning is about to accept his fate that since he lost he has to retire immediately, he is considered a winner along with Cruz due to both sharing the number, thus he wins the bet and gets to keep racing. Not only does he help a friend, he gets the idol as well!
  • Friendly Rivalry: Lightning, Cal Weathers, and Bobby Swift trade barbs and pranks with each other, but it's all in good fun. When the latter two are forced to retire, Lightning is saddened about not being able to race against them anymore.
  • Full Moon Silhouette:
    • Lightning does this when he does an epic jump in the forest, complete with his electronic suit ripping off and reverting to his natural racing getup.
    • This also occurs in the Credits Montage when Mater, Cruz, Lightning and Smokey jump in front of the full moon a la E.T.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • The MPH display on the racing simulator starts reading "ERROR Mph" as Lightning's attempt at using it goes increasingly awry. The computers voice repeating every wrong move he does such as "you have hit a wall", "you have destroyed a drinking fountain", and "you have crashed (on repeat)" counts as well.
    • When Lightning is crashing, you can see two racers behind him with shocked looks on their faces as he flies toward the camera. Though this could be unintentional since it's meant to be dramatic since they are seeing well a crash.
    • When we get a shot of Lightning’s friends saying goodbye to him before he departs for the Rust-eze Racing Center, Red can be seen bawling on the far right, and Sarge is clearly annoyed from it.
    • When Jackson is playing on Cruz's emotions and calling her out, Danny can be seen behind them looking clearly annoyed at his insults.
  • Get Out!: Sterling wanted Lightning to retire from racing and become a spokesman for his brand after seeing his poor work at Cruz's exercises and destroying the simulator. He also wanted Cruz to come back to the training center with him during the Florida 500.
  • Gilligan Cut: McQueen yells at one point that he is "not taking a nap". Cut to him, yawning, having woken up from a nap.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Lightning and the veterans have bright, luminous vivid paint jobs and their sponsor stickers are full of color, while Jackson and the next-gens have darker, disaturated paint jobs and their sponsor stickers are white and semitransparent. This is done to exaggerate the two types.
  • Good is Not Nice: Sterling is revealed to be this; despite coming off as openly friendly to Lightning when he first appears, he doesn't consider Cruz anything other than a trainer and pickets that she isn't a racer. This is actually lampshaded right after the final race when Lightning and Cruz are both announced as the winners.
    Mater: You are not a nice guy! Well, seriously, I gotta say, you do make a quality mudflap on an affordable price...
  • Gratuitous Rap: Cruz's workout melody for Lightning, where she makes up her own rap for such. When Lightning apologizes to Cruz on the way to Thomasville, he makes up his own rap out of it.
  • Group Picture Ending: The movie ends as Lightning and Cruz get their photo taken, which hangs on the wall of Doc's garage next to Lightning and Doc racing in the same exact poses (but with their positions switched so it's mentor on left, student on right), showing how the legacy has repeated.
  • Hammerspace: Where exactly did Guido get that anchor from? The shot immediately before shows nothing but hay bales on the back of Smokey. At the Training center, Cruz seemingly gets a drip pan out of nowhere.
  • Happily Married: Seems to be the case with McQueen and Sally.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: When Lightning destroys the simulator, he crashes right through the screen headfirst. Also during the Crazy 8 he gets Miss Fritter's buzz saw sign stuck in his tire and is unable to move.
  • He's Back!: Subverted. Even with all of the training throughout the film, Lightning can't catch up to Cruz in their final practice run. He's noticeably shaken afterwards and struggles through thanking everyone for mentoring him.
    • Played straight however after the final race when both Lightning and Cruz share the victory - he happily decides to continue his racing career, but before that, he decides to spend the rest of the current season as Cruz's crew chief.
  • Heroic BSoD: McQueen has one for four months after his crash; believing what happened to Doc would happen to him. Cruz goes through one too after Storm tells her that she'll never be accepted as a next-gen racer.
  • Heroic RRoD: McQueen's crash counts as this since seconds before his tire blows out, you can hear him breathing heavily while he's struggling to catch up to Storm.
  • Hey, Wait!: Lightning says it right after Cruz resigns as his trainer and heads back to the training center.
  • Hopeless with Tech: Lightning is shown to be not so used to the simulator and goes out of control the moment he starts using it, to the point of destroying it.
  • Hope Spot: McQueen's final training before the Florida 500, when Cruz overtakes him and wins despite him catching up moments before.
  • Hot Paint Job:
    • As per tradition, Lightning gets one from Ramone prior to leaving for the racing center. He gets another in the form of an electronic suit, with metallic gold accents. He gets an even better one in the finale, a dark blue livery and matching decals so he looks like Doc.
    • The credits show the Legends each got one of these from Ramone as well.
  • Hypocritical Humor: During Storm's winning streak, Chick takes every opportunity to make fun of McQueen's age (in his first scene, he directly refers to Lighting as an "old-timer") despite the fact that Chick's own racing career was coming to an end around the time that McQueen was a rookie and was roughly 2 decades older than him.
  • I Choose to Stay: Combined with He's Back!, Lightning chooses to keep racing following his success at Sterling’s bet thanks to his and Cruz’s shared victory. Cruz also decides to stay with Lightning in Radiator Springs so she can be his student.
  • I Hate Past Me: Not said verbally, but in the scene where Lightning first meets Jackson, he shows him up by asking for a picture with him, which gives him an annoyed glare as if he saw someone acting the same way he did when he was a rookie himself.
  • Image Song:
    • The song played at the beginning, "Run That Race", is about Lightning's enjoyment of being a racer and what comes with it.
    • The closing song "Ride". It generally focuses on Lightning and his love of racing, but the second verse likely refers to Cruz and her rise to becoming a racer, and her excitement about learning to be one with help from her idol.
  • Incoming Ham: Miss Fritter’s “Boo.” Each of the Crazy 8 racers have one of their own as well.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: At the beginning of a deleted scene called "More Than New Paint", two pitties rip off Lighting's #95 after Sterling reveals he took him off the racing circuit and gave his number to Cruz.
  • Insult Backfire: It's enormously satisfying to see Jackson Storm Hoist by His Own Petard when one of his nasty little psych-out Stealth Insults blows up in his face, giving Cruz the motivation she needed to win the race.
  • Irony:
    • Early on in the movie, Lightning shouts out to his friends "Let's see what you've got!" Cue Jackson Storm ironically making his grand entrance and suddenly overtaking the trio for the win.
    • Smokey and the Legends are among those who tease Lightning about his age, yet they're about decades older than him.
    • Despite Smokey giving Lightning and Cruz wacky old-school training methods, he refuses to give them to Cruz after she takes over in the Florida 500, forcing Lightning to take over as the crew chief himself to help her.
    • In spite of letting Cruz take over mid-race, Lightning is willingly foregoing the bet with Sterling and will have to retire as a result. Becomes averted after the race, however...
  • Ironic Nickname: Jackson refers to McQueen as "Champ", mocking the fact that Lightning is falling behind Storm's more high-tech generation.
  • Jerkass:
    • The film's main antagonist, Jackson Storm, is arrogant and disrespectful to the older style racers, considering them to be old and out of date. His first line of dialogue to Lightning in the film is "you have no idea what a pleasure it is for me to finally beat you" after coming out of nowhere to win a race with McQueen. He also acts arrogant and conceited to racers his own age, as shown when he talks down to Cruz before the Florida 500.
    • Chick Hicks is also back in a cameo; he now has his own sports talk show, and uses it to demean Lightning at every chance. It's obvious he's still learned nothing from his racing days.
    • Sterling's bad side begins to show over the course of the movie, culminating in him actively trying to prevent Cruz from replacing Lightning in the Florida race, not only because of his bet with Lightning, but also because he doesn't consider her anything more than a trainer. Then he acts as though he was on her side all along when she wins the race, but at that point everyone is just done with him.
  • The Juggernaut: Miss Fritter dominates the Crazy Eight demolition derby partly because she's a full sized school bus tearing through cars.
  • Jump Scare: Miss Fritter causes one to Lightning and Cruz when she is introduced.
  • Juxtaposed Halves Shot: One of the promotional images for the film features Lightning and Jackson merged together to make such.
  • Kick the Dog: As Lightning realizes all of his friends have either retired or been forcibly let go from their sponsors and meekly makes his way to the track, Jackson pulls up to him and says "Hey champ, where'd all your friends go?" to drive the wound further.

    Tropes L to P 
  • The Last Dance: The Florida 500 will apparently be this if Lightning loses his bet with Sterling. He manages to avoid this by letting Cruz race in his place, and they share the victory under the same number.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: For those who didn't see the second film yet, Lightning has actual working headlights instead of the sticker decal ones he had in the first, having received them then.
  • "Leave Your Quest" Test: Sterling makes a deal with Lightning that if he doesn’t win the Florida 500, he’ll have to retire and promote his brand. If he does, he can keep racing. Lightning manages to prove Sterling wrong and fulfills the latter when Cruz takes over mid-race and they share the win.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • Sterling is silverish chrome, true to his name. However, he's not all he seems to be.
    • Miss Fritter is bright yellow, not helping to add to her aggressive personality.
  • Logo Joke: Though not with the opening logos, the music during the closing logos is a reprise of the theme played during the scene where Lightning is in Smokey's garage reminiscing all the happy times with Doc.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Done by McQueen when he swaps positions with Cruz in the final race. Smokey points out race rules only state that in order for car to participate, they just need a valid race number.
    • At the end of the final race, since McQueen started off the race, he is also considered a winner along with Cruz, meaning he also wins his bet against Sterling.
    • Tex also gets one in on a vow Lightning made way back in the first film, that he'd always race with Rust-Eze... He simply BOUGHT Rust-Eze outright.
  • Market-Based Title:
    • The Japanese title of the film is "Cars: Crossroads", which reflects how Lightning has come to a crossroads in his life and must overcome it.
    • The German title of the film is "Cars 3: Evolution".
  • Master-Apprentice Chain: Smokey - Doc Hudson - Lightning - Cruz. The film spends a lot of time showing the ways history repeats, as well as how it doesn't.
  • Mood Lighting:
    • While Lightning is racing at the beginning, the speedways' background colors are bright and vibrant, representing his happiness. But as he becomes more sidelined by Jackson and the next-gens over the course of the movie, the background colors become noticeably darker and muted (This is especially noticeable during the montage of Storm's winning streak). In the climax, when Lightning is finally back on top with thanks from Cruz taking over, the background colors are once again bright.
    • When we first see Lightning practicing at Willy's Butte, it's a beautiful bright and sunny day, showing he's enjoying himself. When we see him practicing again following Storm's introduction, it's cloudy and quite dark, which represents he's starting to fall behind and unable to keep up with the next-gens. Then, at the end of the film, after his career is saved and he becomes Cruz's teacher, it's a beautiful sunrise showing his return to form.
    • During the Fireball Beach scene, it is sunny at first, but every time Cruz fails, the clouds gradually gather until it's completely dark; then when Cruz finally succeeds, the clouds have dispersed.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The movie starts out with Lightning enjoying being the star of the Piston Cup world and engaging in playful rivalries with Bobby and Cal. But then it all goes downhill when Jackson Storm enters.
    • During the final practice race, Lightning manages to pass Cruz as celebratory music accompanys the success, only for Cruz to suddenly zoom right past him not even ten seconds later. Cue a gobsmacked Lightning, distracted and remembering the "McQueen is fading... fading fast" signal from his crash four months earlier.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Lightning argues with Cruz about his failure to beat Jackson's speed and that nothing is working, and soon he is struggling to stay in the lead during the Florida 500. They apologize just in time, and switch places so they can win the race together. If their argument hadn't been resolved in time, or if Cruz hadn't taken Lightning's place to help him, Lightning would've lost his job and Sterling would've won. Either way, Sterling would've also won anyway if Natalie hadn't thought of their shared win under the same number.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • Many watching the trailer have been led to believe that Lightning dies in the race and the rest of the movie is about the other characters. He doesn't, because he survives. The entire premise of the movie is how the accident affects him as an individual and how he overcomes adversity to get back in the game. Though it's hard to say how many people actually think he dies or are simply repeating it for the Memetic Mutation.
    • Initial trailers implied that the film would be Darker and Edgier than its more child-oriented predecessors, with a look into the dangers of racing sports (the teaser trailer was modeled after advertisements about vehicular crashes). In reality, with the exception of the aforementioned scene (though even that scene is not as intense as the trailers implied), the film relatively sticks to the slow, "slice of life" tone of the original Cars movie.
    • The trailers suggested that McQueen would essentially go through the same arc as the titular character in Rocky III, regaining his passion to defeat Storm. Though he tries this, Lightning has Cruz take his place in the final race instead, opting to take the pit chief position that Doc had in the first film.
    • When the scene of Lightning's crash was shown at the Detroit Auto Show to promote the movie, Lightning has his regular racing getup, and some sounds were different (there's a lighter clang sound coupled with a pained grunt as Lighting hits the outer wall). In the actual film, Lightning is in his pre-crash livery during that scene.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In the Los Angeles 500, Jackson passes Lightning and he angrily pushes himself as hard as he can as he struggles to catch up, which is what causes him to lose control and eventually crash.
    • Cruz is able to stay behind Lightning at Fireball Beach, Thunder Hollow and the first time racing st the Thomasville Speedway. After she is upgraded into a racer to be Lighting’s sparring partner, she somehow becomes faster and manages to easily overtake him in the last practice race.
    • In the climax, Lightning decides to let Cruz take over mid-race, but this means he's going to automatically lose the bet with Sterling and cancel out his expected comeback, as Cruz points out. This is surprisingly averted after the race as because he started and she finished under the winning number, both are considered winners meaning Lightning has won the bet.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: When the Florida 500 reaches its last lap, Cruz uses her opportunity to taunt Jackson at will, only to get rammed into the wall on the last turn. Jackson yells back to her that she doesn't belong on the track, only for her to regain hope and announces she does, causing her to flip over him and win.
  • Nice, Mean, and In-Between: Cruz is nice and gentle, always there to help train her students and eventually fulfill her dream of becoming a racer. Jackson is mean and rotten, only caring about himself and taunting the other racers at will. Lightning is in-between, not as mean as Jackson (like he used to be), but more assertive than Cruz.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Like before, a lot of celebrity cast members from the racing community make cameos, with their names changed to incorporate a car pun.
    • Chase Elliott, 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year and back-to-back Daytona 500 polesitter, as Chase Racelott.
    • Ryan Blaney, at the time pilot of the Wood Brothers' #21 Ford prior to moving to Penske Racing, as Ryan "Inside" Laney.
    • Daniel Suarez, the new driver of Joe Gibbs Racing's #19 Toyota after Carl Edwards' unexpected departure, as Danny Swervez.
    • Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. as Bubba Wheelhouse.
    • All three members of the 2015-2019 NASCAR on Fox booth team show up: Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon once again return as Darrell Cartrip and Jeff Gorvette, but now Mike Joy joins them as a Citroën 2CV named 'Mike Joyride'.
    • Shannon Spake, the host of Fox Sports 1’s NASCAR Race Hub and veteran reporter, voices Shannon Spokes.
    • Richard Petty returns to play Strip "The King" Weathers, the anthropomorphic version of his 1970 Plymouth Superbird. His son Kyle now appears playing Strip's nephew Cal.
    • Jackson Storm's crew chief is Ray Reverham, who is voiced by Ray Evernham, the crew chief with whom Jeff Gordon won three of his four Cup championships.
    • Junior Moon is voiced by the late Junior Johnson, the NASCAR Hall-of-Famer. Other Retired Badasses Lightning meets in Thomasville were based on NASCAR legends too; Louise Nash is based on Louise Smith, while River Scott is based on Wendell Scott.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: Lightning does not finish the Florida 500, but Cruz does under his number. Because of this, they are both considered winners.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: The teaser trailer promised that life won't ever be the same for Lightning after his accident. The film ends with Lightning choosing to act as mentor to Cruz, willingly becoming what Doc was to him to her.
  • Novelization: As per tradition with the past two films, a junior novelization of the film was published a month before it was released. The novel changes some parts and alters several dialogue, one change in particular being the first race taking place at Florida International Speedway instead of Motor Speedway of the South like in the film.
  • No, You: When Cruz is about to take over for Lightning in the Florida 500:
    Sterling: She's just a trainer!
    Lightning: No, she's a racer. Just took me a while to see it.
  • Odd Name Out: The names Cruz gives her tires are "María", "Juaníta", "Ronaldo", and "Debbie Richardson".
  • Offscreen Teleportation: The janitor that Lightning stares at eventually suddenly appears before him after looking away for a moment, then he blinks and she's back to her original spot. Then again, it's just a daydream.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Lightning has one when he watches Jackson suddenly overtake him for the lead in the Los Angeles 500, and he gets an even bigger one when one of his tires explodes and is about to hit the wall, resulting in him crashing violently.
    • Lightning gets another when he realizes that the stadium he and Cruz just snuck into is not hosting a race, but instead a demolition derby.
    • A third, minor one done by Lightning occurs when Cruz suddenly overtakes him in their final practice race before the Florida 500.
    • Storm has one when he is told Ramirez is right on his tail; cue the camera spinning round to reveal them literally tailgating him. He gets a bigger one when she flips over him like Doc did, causing her to overtake him and win the race.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain: McQueen, a racing legend by now vs. Storm, the first of a new generation, though Storm is more of a Jerkass Rival than an outright villain.
  • Older Than They Look: This is repeatedly teased with Lightning throughout the movie. He's a veteran racer, yet he still looks the same as he did when he was a rookie. Characters repeatedly say he's old, despite the fact he looks young (even having the same young voice), and has always been since then.
  • One Last Field Trip: Lightning's bet is to either win the Florida 500 or retire from racing forever; his goal is to avoid making the Florida 500 this.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: McQueen's crash doesn't leave him with any lasting injuries.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: As with Bittersweet Ending, both Lightning and Cruz share the victory, Lightning gets to keep his job, and they become temporary teammates; but all the veteran racers, specifically Bobby and Brick, have all retired or fired and replaced, and it's likely we'll never see them again.
  • Orbital Shot: Lightning has one in the opening scene just before the movie's title is displayed on the scoring pylon.
  • Overcrank: McQueen's crash, as first displayed in the teaser, is disturbingly shown in slow motion.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Though Lightning doesn't die during his crash, the radio DJ predicts his racing career is over four months after the accident:
    Radio DJ: But with #95 coming off his worst year on record — don't shoot the messenger here, folks — it can be safe to assume that Lightning McQueen's racing days are over.
    • And then Natalie predicts the same thing following his and Cruz's argument:
    Natalie: I'm willing to predict tonight, that Lightning McQueen's racing career will be over within the week. It might even be over now.
  • Palette Swap: The veterans other than Lightning, and the next-gens other than Jackson, all share nearly the same exact body type, differing in paintwork. Considering that both Jackson and Lightning are custom builds and key characters, this isn't surprising.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • To hide themselves from the public at the Thunder Hollow Crazy 8, Lightning and Cruz use muddy disguises and take on the alter-egos as "Chester Whipplefilter" and "Frances Beltline", respectively. Mack also disguises himself as a delivery truck for "Jocko Flocko's Party Supplies". Their disguises manage to fool everyone until Lightning is soaked with water after the match, revealing himself to the crowd.
    • In Thomasville, Cruz uses mostly duct tape to disguise herself as Storm and participate as Lightning's sparring partner in Thomasville.
  • Passing the Torch: McQueen to Cruz Ramirez, during the movie's final race. Afterwards, Cruz adopts Doc's racing number (51) while Lightning adopts his paintjob and moniker as the "Fabulous Lightning McQueen" in Doc's memory, becoming Cruz's pit chief.
  • Perma-Stubble: Rubber crumbs on McQueen's bumper look a bit like that.
  • Posthumous Character: The late Doc Hudson is a big inspiration for McQueen in this movie. We see several flashbacks, both him training McQueen and from his racing youth.
  • P.O.V. Cam:
    • Mater disturbing Lightning at the beginning is done with a shot through his eyes, as he opens them to see him.
    • In the scene where Lightning is waiting outside Sterling's office, he stares at a janitor cleaning the floor and we get three shots of her through his eyes. The first one is followed by an Extreme Close-Up of them, before showing her real close to him in the second. The third shows it was just a daydream as she's back to her original spot.
  • Production Foreshadowing: The picture of the home town of the Hispanic race car training at the Rust-eze Racing Center is actually that of the town in Coco. Ernesto de la Cruz's guitar can also be seen on a wall behind the stage at the Cotter Pin.
  • Public Service Announcement: The film's first teaser trailer is modeled after advertisements about vehicle crashes.

    Tropes R to Z 
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Lightning utters one, in the form of several Little Nos, as he struggles to catch up to Jackson, seconds before his iconic fateful crash. He screams another during the Crazy 8 when he is about to crash into Mr. Drippy the water truck.
  • Reaction Shot: Before and after the flashback of Lightning’s wonderful moments with Doc while he looks at the various newspapers in Smokey’s garage, we are treated to a good shot of his eyes, which are full of remorse and wonder all at once.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Tex Dinoco proves to be this when he gladly hires Cruz to be his main racer, and then buys out Rust-eze from Sterling so that McQueen can continue racing and act as Cruz's crew chief.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lightning delivers one to Cruz after he gets exposed at the demolition derby and realizes he never focused on improving his speed hence taking care of her instead. Cruz then gives Lightning an Armor-Piercing Response, stating she never signed up to be a trainer in the first place, and wanted to be a racer like him.
    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 TONIGHT 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!
    (He slams his tire against the wall, causing the trophy to fall and break. Cruz's expression turns from shock into anger of her own.)
    Cruz: MACK! PULL OVER!
    Mack: What? Now?
    Cruz: NOW. (She presses a button, and Mack's trailer opens, causing him to panic.)
    Mack: Pulling over! Pulling over!
    (Mack stops where Cruz can drive out as Lightning watches. She turns to glare at Lightning)
    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: Did you—?
    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. “Dream small, Cruz.” That’s 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 going to prove them wrong.
    Lightning: What happened?
    Cruz: When I got to my first race, I figured it out.
    Lightning: What?
    Cruz: That I didn’t belong. The other racers looked nothing like me. You know, they-they were bigger, and stronger, and so… confident. And when they started their engines… that was it. I knew I’d never be a racer. I just left. It was my one shot, and I didn’t take it. Yeah, so, uh… I-I’m gonna head back to the training center. I think we both know it’s 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?
    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... (Cruz ignores him and he sighs)
    • Storm gives one to Cruz during the Florida 500 when he taunts her stating there's no way she'll ever be a racer.
    Jackson: They don't need to know what you and I already do. You can play dress up all you want... but you'll never be one of us.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The music played when Lightning is going out of control with the simulator is the same as the first film when he struggles to finish the first race after his tire blows.
  • Red Is Heroic: Once again, Lightning fits this trope like in the past two films. Smokey fits this too since he's a faded, rusty red and serves as Lightning's mentor when helping him get back on top. Cruz also has a bit of red on her gaudy Rust-eze look when she takes over for Lightning in the Florida 500.
  • Reluctant Retiree: This is Lightning's problem throughout the film. After Storm wins the first race, the old school racers are either forced or convinced to retire, making room for the next-gen racers. McQueen's main goal in the film is to avoid becoming this trope. At the end of the film, he and Cruz share the victory and he decides to continue racing, though he temporarily exempts from racing full-time for the rest of the season in order to train Cruz.
  • Repeat Cut: Used when Lightning wins the Dinoco Light 350 at the start, then when Jackson Storm is introduced and overtakes Lightning and his friends for the win, and again when Cruz manages to overtake Jackson with one of Doc's famous moves, causing her to win the race.
  • Retired Badass: McQueen and Cruz meet several very old racing cars in Thomasville. Zig-zagged with Lightning himself, who ends up becoming a sort of Semi-Retired Badass at the end of the movie when he acts as Cruz's crew chief for the rest of the season.
  • Riches to Rags: The veteran racers are either fired or are forced to retire, so the next-gens can take their place. Lightning's goal is to avoid experiencing this himself.
  • Right Out of My Clothes: At one point, McQueen jumps out of the high-tech coating done at Sterling's facility, reverting to his old paint job done by Ramone.
  • Sad Battle Music: The music during the Los Angeles 500 becomes this just after Lightning is overtaken by Storm and falls back. It gets more and more dramatic as he struggles to catch up, eventually deteriorating into the Scare Chord as seen below.
  • Scare Chord: When Lightning is struggling to catch up to Jackson in the Los Angeles 500, the background music eventually deteriorates into this the moment his tire blows, right when he is about to crash.
  • Self-Deprecation: The scene with all sorts of Lightning McQueen merch lined up to be sold seems to be a dig at the franchise's own status as a merchandise machine.
  • Sequel Hook: Lightning's job is saved from retirement, and he becomes Cruz's teacher, hinting this is not the last we see of them.
  • Sixth Ranger: Cruz becomes Lightning's personal protégé, and is the newest addition to the Radiator Springs folk.
  • Shave And A Haircut: Tex's horn sounds this way.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns:
    • Bobby and Cal are only seen for about the first quarter or so. After the introduction of the next-gens, they are never seen again save for Cal making a brief appearance after the Florida 500 when Tex wants to hire Cruz.
    • After Mack reminds Lightning they have to depart for Florida following the final practice race, he is not seen again for the rest of the movie.
    • Rusty and Dusty vanish from the rest of the film after they leave Lightning following their announcement having sold Rust-eze to Sterling. They do make an appearance in the end credits however, having apparently went on vacation somewhere.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Smurfette Principle: We don't see more than one female car at a time competing in the main championship, both in the past and in the present.
  • So Last Season: Essentially the whole premise of McQueen's situation, where he is utterly outmatched by the new generation of racers.
    • There is one specific scene in the first act that plays this trope horribly straight. Even despite Guido's incredible speed in doing pitstops since the first movie, it is still not enough for McQueen to beat Storm. Case in point, the latter caught up to the former in just mere seconds after Guido completed the pitstop!
  • So Proud of You: Doc of McQueen, as we see in Thomasville. Lightning of Cruz at the end of the film.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: At one point during the Crazy 8, the taxi cab yells, "Hey! Get the [honk] out of my way!", making the first time in the franchise someone actually said a far worse word.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Sterling wants Cruz to come back to the training center because she's a trainer, not a racer. Lightning hears their argument, inspiring him to let her take over to fulfill her dream and prove Sterling wrong.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • The Rust-eze logos on Lightning's hood and spoiler have been slightly enlarged, exaggerating the fact he's grown up.
    • Both the Los Angeles 500 and Florida 500 races start during the day and end at night. In the former, Lightning goes well throughout the day and continues well into the sunset. By the time night comes, Jackson overtakes him, he tries to catch up, then he loses control and crashes. In the latter, Lightning races throughout the day part, but switches with Cruz just before sunset comes. In both ways, the sun set on Lightning's turn, and the moon rises on the other car's turn.
  • The Stinger: Right after the credits end, we get a long shot of Mater in his junkyard. He tries calling Lightning on his phone like he did via Videochat before, only to destroy the reception antenna and lose the connection, much to his chagrin.
    Mater: Ugh. Technology.
  • Stock Sound Effect: Lightning's scream as he is "launched upwards" on the simulator following the "You have destroyed a drinking fountain" prompt is in the same intonation as his prolonged "OW!" from the first film the second time he hits the cactus.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: At first the movie seems like it's going to have a Bittersweet Ending since Lightning gave up his place halfway through to Cruz, thus causing him to lose the bet with Sterling and has to retire because of it. However, since he started the race and she finished it under the same number, both are considered joint-winners, thus he wins the bet and gets to keep his career and becomes Cruz's teacher as well, giving the film an absolutely wonderful ending.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Mia and Tia are absent in this film, having been replaced by an unknown child fan.
    • Played with in-universe when many of the next-gens look very much like their veteran counterparts. Shown when Lightning comes upon whom he thinks is Bobby, when it's actually Danny Swervez who comes out.
  • Take a Third Option: Lightning faces a crossroads in his career where he either has to give up to the next rookie in line like what happened to Doc, or retire willingly and become a mascot for his brand. He chooses neither; instead he lets Cruz take over mid-race to help him finish, resulting in both of them sharing the victory.
  • Take That!: The next-gen racers appear to be one towards the current state of NASCAR, namely the loss of the "stock" aspect and an over-reliance on technology. Though the current Cup Series cars are nothing like the Le Mans-style cars seen in the movie.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • While getting a pitstop, Lightning tells Guido he has to get back to the track before Jackson does. He makes it out, and just a few seconds later, Jackson catches up to him and leaves him in the dust.
      • Also, it's implied Guido HADN'T completed it properly, and the tire that bursts hadn't been replaced.
    • During the Training Montage at the Rust-eze Racing Center, Lightning repeatedly pickets to Cruz that he wants to try the simulator and claims to be suited for it. Of course, it's all proven wrong once he gets on the simulator.
  • Terse Talker: Dr. Damage doesn’t say anything other than a siren’s imitation “Wee-oo-wee-oo-wee-oo”.
  • This Cannot Be!:
    • One of Lightning's friends, Brick Yardley, had this reaction upon getting fired by his sponsor prior to the Los Angeles 500.
    • Sterling felt this way after seeing the winner board which announced both Cruz and Lightning as the winners, knowing he lost the bet with him.
  • Time Skip: Four months pass after McQueen's crash.
  • Toilet Humour: Invoked when Cruz slides a drip pan underneath Lightning just in case he leaks oil while being suspended in the air on a rotery lift. And to make matters worse she leaves him hanging there for an unknown period of time. One of the Next-Gen trainees even lampshades this while calling him ''Drip Pan'' while Lightning just sighs in defeat.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Certain promos use clips from the final moments of the film, especially some parts of the final race where Cruz wears a 95 paint job, spoiling the scene where she helps Lightning. One particular promo for the Fourth of July also used a clip of Lightning and Cruz racing together at Willy's Butte — this is the very last scene of the movie when she becomes his student.
    • One TV spot showed a shortened version of the scene where Lightning crashes the Rust-eze simulator.
  • Training Montage: Parodied with McQueen and Cruz on the beach. Played straight with McQueen and Cruz in Thomasville.
  • Tranquil Fury: Lightning during the Los Angeles 500. By the time Storm overtakes him, his rage has reached high levels and he furiously pushes his engine to the max as he struggles to catch up.
  • Transformation Sequence: Lightning gets one when he is being fitted with a high-tech suit prior to his tour of the Racing Center and meeting Cruz.
  • Truth in Television:
    • NASCAR rules do permit driver changes during pit stops. However, the Cars universe rules are a bit different, probably due to cars being drivers. If this was a NASCAR race, McQueen would've been declared sole winner of the Florida 500, because he was the one who started the race for Sterling's team. Admittedly, that STILL would mean he won the race.
    • Real racers have a hard time adjusting to simulation software at first, like what happens to Lightning at the simulator. Even if racers have used a computer before, there's still a chance something could go wrong the first time they try it.
    • During his training with Smokey, it's noted that Lightning isn't very good at drafting because, having spent his career at the front of the pack, it's something he's never needed to do. Real-life racing cars do actually require different set-ups depending on whether they're expected to be at the front, in clear air, or in the midfield, driving through the turbulent air of the cars in front. Over in Formula One, the dominant Mercedes team have this as their Achilles' Heel; if they're leading the race, they're untouchable, but if they drop into the pack for whatever reason, they struggle to make their way through.
    • As a retroactive example, look closely and you'll find that most of the next-generation racers resemble muscle cars. In the 2018 NASCAR season, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (a well-known pony/muscle car) replaced the Holden Commodore-derived Chevrolet SS saloon. Ford would replace the Fusion saloon with the Mustang GT the following season.
  • The Unreveal: While it is all but stated that Doc is dead, it's still unknown how he died in the first place. This film even makes it dubious that it was simply a case of old age, since his old trainer and several fellow racers from his era are shown to be very much alive.
  • Understatement: Late into the film, Ramone is asked to paint McQueen's number onto Cruz. After he's done, he's unsure about the result due to the very short timeframe he was given. It's then revealed that it's an over-stylised "95" which he even managed to duplicate on Cruz's other side.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Lightning McQueen initially feels this way towards Cruz's training methods.
  • V8 Engine Noises: All over the track. An official poster for Jackson Storm states that he is equipped with a V8 motor that pushes 850 horses (roughly what 2014 NASCAR spec motors had), and it is implied that the other Next-Gens have the same equipment. However, during up-close shots, their engines sound more in line with V6's, complete with the signature transmission whine of most racing cars, specifically GT and touring racers. What makes it even weirder is the fact that in the Los Angeles and Florida 500's, when flying by in packs the Next-Gens go from sounding like NASCAR stock cars in some shots to V6 cars in others.
  • Vague Age: Lightning McQueen is teased about his age throughout the movie but isn't specified what age he is. The director Brian Fee implies he is around his mid to late 40s. Or a car's equivalent since it is still ambiguous how cars age in relation to humans. One example is Cruz saying she grew up watching him on TV, implying she's more than a year old (since her description implies she's in her early to mid 20s, same goes for all the next-gen racers).
  • Vehicular Combat: The Crazy Eight at Thunder Hollow is a demolition derby where cars ram each other until only one remains.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: When Sterling notices Lightning and Cruz's shared win, resulting in him winning the bet and gets to keep his job, he is escorted away by Tex who negotiates Rusteze away from him for an unspecified amount.
  • Visual Pun:
    • When Lightning calls Mater on his computer following his and Cruz's argument, Mater leans so close to the camera that his eye completely fills the screen, which Lightning points out:
    Lightning: Looking you straight in the eye there, pal.
    • The credits end with the "Created and produced at Pixar Animation Studios" logo against a pair of checkered flags. In other words, the credits have literally reached the finish line.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Seems to be the general dynamic between older-generation racers, complete with (mostly harmless) pranks. Cruz getting harmlessly tricked after winning the race shows she's been accepted into the new generation of racers.
  • Win-Win Ending: The movie ends as Lightning shares the Florida 500 victory with Cruz so he wins the bet against Sterling, Cruz fulfills her dream of becoming a racer, and Lightning chooses to keep racing and becomes Cruz’s teacher as well. Tex also buys out all of Rust-eze from Sterling so he owns both sponsors, and achieving a dream Lightning initially had to race for him in the first film.
  • Wham Line:
    • "You will never be the racer you once were. Accept it." note 
    • After Lightning lashes out at Cruz for showing him up at Thunder Hollow, she reveals a hidden depth about herself:
    Cruz: I wanted to become a racer forever...because of you!
    • After Lightning returns to the pits following the next-gen crash and saying he needed Cruz back:
    Lightning: No, no, no! Not me! Her!
    • Sometime after this:
    Cruz: You said it yourself, this might be your last chance!
    Lightning: Which makes it my last give you your first chance, Cruz.
    • And near the end, when it seems like Lightning will have to retire after all, Smokey stops him and we happen to get this particular line that'll make every fan screaming with excitement:
    Lightning: What? Why is my name up there?
  • Wham Shot: The winner board being updated so Lightning's name is right under Cruz's, showing he did win after all and succeeds at Sterling's bet.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Jackson Storm's fate after the final race remains unknown, as he literally disappears the moment Cruz crosses the finish line. We also don't know what happens to Bobby, Brick and the other veterans after their replacements.
    • After the next-gen crash and when Cruz takes over, a few of the next-gens were not seen for the rest of the race, probably for getting the most damage and had to be taken out.
    • It was never resolved what happened to Sterling after Tex brought Rust-eze from him after the final race. Or Cal for that matter, since Cruz is now Dinoco's racer.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The pictures in the closing credits show Lightning and Cruz spending the rest of the season together as a team. We also learn that Rusty and Dusty are apparently on vacation after selling the sponsor.
  • Where Is Your X Now?: When the Los Angeles 500 is beginning, Jackson says to Lightning, "Hey Champ...where'd all your friends go?"
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are:
    • Sally to Lightning in Doc's garage four months after the crash.
    • Mater to Lightning while talking in his trailer after Cruz resigns.
    • Smokey to Lightning after telling him about Doc's past and how happy coaching him has made him happier.
    • Lightning himself to Cruz throughout the Florida 500 when she takes over for him mid-race.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Lightning says it after Jackson mocks him at the post-race press conference shortly before the announcement of Cal's retirement. He says it again during the Fireball Beach race when Cruz claims she didn't want to hit a crab.
  • Younger Than They Look: Despite the fact the next-gens are said to be younger than the veterans, their appearances are larger and bulkier, almost the same size. Given the fact that cars do not show any signs of aging years apart, this is intentional.

    Miss Fritter's Racing Skoool 
  • A Day in the Limelight: The short focuses on Miss Fritter and her Mooks with Lightning and Cruz Demoted to Extra.
  • Here We Go Again!: The short ends with the force of Miss Fritter's yell causing Cruz's Crazy 8 trophy to fall and break apart once again.
  • Framing Device: The short is framed by Lightning and Cruz watching the commercial in the former’s garage after the Florida 500.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Miss Fritter reveals she was originally a normal everyday school bus until she became the hot-headed Crazy 8 champion of today.
  • Midquel: The short takes place after the announcement of Lightning and Cruz as joint-winners, and before their first driving lesson at Willy's Butte.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Dr. Damage, one of Miss Fritter's Mooks who only spoke using "Wee-oo-wee-oo", uses full dialogue in the short for the first time.
  • Tempting Fate: At the beginning of the short, Lightning puts his and Cruz's shared Florida 500 trophy next to her Crazy 8 trophy where it'll be "safe and sound". When the short is about to end, Miss Fritter's yelling from the TV causes the latter trophy to fall and break apart, proving the opposite.

"You can't turn back the clock, kid. But you can wind it up again."


Video Example(s):


Cars 3 Credits

A series of photos on the wall in Doc's office show Lightning as Cruz's crew chief for the rest of the season, as she is welcomed by the rest of the Radiator Springs folk, and have wild adventures of their own as well.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / WhereAreTheyNowEpilogue

Media sources: