When Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) is training the new millennial cars on the treadmills, she plays music for one car to remind him of home, and shows him a scene on the television. The scene is from Coco (2017), and the car comes from Santa Cecilia, where Coco took place.
The film has very few references to the events of Cars 2 (2011). They include: Doc Hudson's death, his medical office being converted into a museum, Lightning McQueen's newly installed headlights, an appearance by Jeff Gorvette at the final race of the movie, a picture of Miles Axlerod in Sterling's office, and a television screen showing John and Nancy, the two cars in Paris, kissing.
In June 2017, Entertainment Weekly reported that during the voice-actor recording process for Cars (2006), Director John Lasseter spent a lot of time in the recording booth with Paul Newman, who often regaled him with stories about his life and his many years as a race car driver. Lasseter said, "In a way, he mentored me in racing, because car racing was his true life's passion, and I made sure that whenever he came into the recording booth, we were recording everything. In-between takes, he would tell me stories about great races, and you could hear the passion in his voice." Those recordings made it possible for Doc Hudson to reappear in this movie, released over eight years after Newman's death. Lasseter explained, "as we started Cars 3, we went back to every recording we did on Cars 1 and catalogued and listened to it all, and ended up with a lot of material that we could use; lines that were cut from the original film and never used, as well as some of those pieces from in-between takes."
Tom Magliozzi died in 2014. Instead of hiring a sound-alike, filmmakers reviewed old transcripts from Car Talk to find lines that would serve Rusty. Car Talk was a weekly NPR radio show hosted by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, where they were known as "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers." "Don't drive like my brother" was their catchphrase at the end of the show.
Director Brian Fee has mentioned that the film is a love letter to racing, and the American way, and is inspired by the Americana you see travelling through the South where every small town has a dirt track.
Lightning's friends are named Bobby Swift and Cal Weathers, which seem to be a nod to Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton, Jr. from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), which was released in the same year that Cars (2006) came out. Cal Weathers' name is also a nod to actor Carl Weathers who played Apollo Creed in the first four "Rocky" movies, and also provided the voice of Combat Carl in Toy Story of Terror (2013). The training scene on Fireball Beach between Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez is a tribute to the beach training scene in Rocky III (1982) between Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed.
Jackson Storm is seen racing at the Buy n Large raceway in the Next Generation Extended Look. Buy n Large originated in WALL·E (2008), another Pixar film, making this the second Pixar film to reference it, the first being Toy Story 3 (2010). Coincidentally, both are the third installment of their respective franchises (Toy Story and Cars).
This movie's teaser trailer suggested that this film would have a much darker tone than its predecessors. As a result, a controversy began whether or not to allow young McQueen fans to watch this film. However, it left Cars critics unexpectedly anticipating this film.
Cal Weathers, the old generation 42 Dinoco car is voiced by Kyle Petty. Kyle is the son of Richard Petty, who voiced "The King" 43 Dinoco car. Kyle raced many years in NASCAR, but had less success when compared to his father's seven championships and two hundred race wins. The running gag in the movie where Cal overhears his replacement attempts makes more sense with this background information.
This movie features McQueen with his signature Cars look, and brings back familiar characters from Radiator Springs, including Mater, Sally Carrera, Fillmore, Sarge, Luigi, Guido, and auto-body shop owner Ramone.
The first and only film to date in the Cars franchise to not be directed by John Lasseter since he chose to direct Toy Story 4 (2019) instead, though he was replaced by Josh Cooley part way through that film's production.
A tie-in video game accompanied the film's release. It was developed by Avalanche Software, which was shut down by Disney in 2016, but was acquired and revived by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment. This makes this movie the first Pixar film to receive a video game adaption for traditional video game consoles (not counting mobile games as well as LEGO The Incredibles (2018)) since Brave (2012).
NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon consulted the film's story by basing McQueen's struggles with the next gens on his experience about younger drivers out pacing him in the races. Also, the next gens are based on young Pixar interns who have the same creative touch as the Pixar crew.
Despite somewhat different appearances, the cars that race for Trunk Fresh, Shiny Wax, Bumper Save, Sputter Stop, Spare O Mint, Lil Torquey Pistons, and No Stall at the beginning of the movie are the same cars that raced for them in Cars (2006).
In one of the flashback scenes of Doc, he is balancing a stack of objects on his hood ornament while saying to Lightning, "You might wanna take notes on this one." This line of dialogue is reused from the video game adaptation of Cars (2006) in which Doc sometimes says it when passing another car in a race.
There are six new sponsors for the race cars in this movie, SynerG, Combustr, IGNTTR, Blinkr, Triple Dent, and Carbon Cyber. In addition, six sponsors from Cars (2006), Shifty Drug, Fiber Fuel, Sidewall Shine, Retread, Tach-O-Mint, and the unnamed sponsor for Junior aren't sponsoring any cars in this movie.
Nathan Fillion plays Sterling, a billionaire who is known as the "Mud flap King of the Eastern Seaboard" as one of the businesses he owns is a mud flap company. Ironically, on Gravity Falls (2012), Fillion played Preston Northwest, a rich capitalist who also owns a mud flap company as one of his investments.
When Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez meet Miss Fritter, you might have seen the Pizza Planet truck zoom by on the track, but on a part that wasn't in the clip, one of the Crazy-8 racers smashes into the Pizza Planet truck, and its rocket flies into the stands.
When Lightning and Cruz are in the Cotter Pin Bar and Grill, there is a poster on the wall, that is dated, "Saturday, June 16". This is a reference to day the movie came out, June 16, although that day was a Friday, not a Saturday.
When they are first talking about Storm's chances of winning midway through, and give him a 95.2 percent chance as a subtle hint at McQueen coming in second place, and that he is number 95. The odds for McQueen at only 1.2 percent is a nod to Cars 2 (2011), as he is car number twelve in the line-up.
During the demolition derby, Lightning uses the name Chester Whipplefilter to try to hide his identity. "Mr. Whipple" is a character featured in Charmin brand toilet papers ads from the 1960s to the late 1990s. There is an oil filtering system that uses a roll of replaceable single-ply toilet paper as the filtering media.
Producers Kevin Reher and Andrea Warren have stated that this isn't confirmed to be the last film in the franchise, and that if they'd do a fourth installment if it'll be better than the previous films, and would consider making Cruz Ramirez as protagonist. Lea DeLaria has also expressed interest in one of these days being able to reprise her role as Miss Fritter.
Bubba Wheelhouse, Danny Swervez, Jackson Storm, Ryan Inside Laney, Chase Racelott, Tim Treadless, Ed Truncan, Herb Curbler, and H.J. Hollis are the only next generation racers confirmed to be released as diecasts by Mattel. The next generation Easy Idle and Re-volting racers will also be released, but they're exclusive to multi packs only sold on Amazon.
When Lightning is looking at his memories at the Rust-Eze Racing Center, a sign for the Radiator Springs 500 1/2 can be seen. This is a reference to an episode of Tales from Radiator Springs (2013) titled "The Radiator Springs 500 1/2".
This is the fifth Pixar production where a character is voiced by a new actor, which applies to Chick Hicks. The first was Slinky Dog and Andy (younger at the start of the film) in Toy Story 3 (2010), the second was Fillmore in Cars 2 (2011), the third was Tales from Radiator Springs (2013) with Red, and the fourth time was Nemo, Squirt, and Jacques in Finding Dory (2016).
Multiple cars that bear sponsors from the first film, use different numbers. In Cars, the Re-volting racer used the number 84. In this movie, the Re-volting racers use the number 48. In Cars, the Vitoline racer used the number 61. In this movie, the Vitoline racers use the number 24. In Cars, the Octane Gain racer used the number 58. In this movie, the Octane Gain racers use the number 19. In Cars, the Easy Idle racer used the number 51. In this movie, the Easy Idle racers use the number 15. In Cars, the Transberry Juice racer used the number 63. In this movie, the Transberry Juice racers use the number 6.
In the new clip with the Next Gen Racers, Storm says "Good luck out there champ. You're gonna need it." This is a possible reference to Toy Story 3 (2010), when the Army soldiers left, and Sarge said "Good luck folks", and then another solider said "You're gonna need it."
This marks the second time two Pixar sequels were released in-between two original movies, with this case being Finding Dory (2016) and this movie in between The Good Dinosaur (2015) and Coco (2017). The first time was when Toy Story 3 (2010) and Cars 2 (2011) were released between Up (2009) and Brave (2012).
Al Oft the Lightyear Blimp from the first two films in the series makes three cameos in the movie. First, he appears in the beginning race. Second, he can barely be seen during the first race with all of the Next Gen racers, and last but not least, he appears in the simulator when McQueen drives up a ramp.
Though this movie is not confirmed to be the last film in the franchise, all three films in the franchise were released in the gap between the first and second films of The Incredibles (2004) franchise.
The only Cars film to date not to release in the same year as a film in The Weinstein Company's Hoodwinked! franchise. Cars (2006) opened up the same year as Hoodwinked! (2005) (US release date for it was January 13, 2006), and Cars 2 (2011) opened the same year as Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (2011).
The only Cars film to date that does not release the same year as a film in Warner Brothers' Happy Feet film franchise, of which Cars (2006) was released the same year as Happy Feet (2006), and Cars 2 (2011) released the same year as Happy Feet Two (2011).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Though it's implied that Lightning McQueen is the last veteran racer still standing at the Los Angeles 500, there are actually ten other veteran racers seen racing at the Los Angeles 500. Reb Meeker, the veteran Tank Coat racer, Buck Bearingly, the veteran View Zeen racer, Brian Spark, the veteran Leak-Less racer, the unnamed veteran Rev-N-Go racer, Rev Roadages, the veteran Vinyl Toupee racer, Darren Leadfoot, the veteran Shiny Wax racer, Ponchy Wipeout, the veteran Bumper Save racer, Murray Clutchburn, the veteran Sputter Stop racer, Ralph Carlow, the veteran Lil Torquey Pistons racer, and Dino Draftsky, the veteran Clutch Aid racer, all made it to the end of the season. However, all of them were replaced with next generation racers by the Florida 500.
At the Motor Speedway of the South, six veteran racers (the veteran Nitroade, Blinkr, N2O Cola, Mood Springs, Re-volting, and Easy Idle racers) were fired to make room for six new next generation rookies (Tim Treadless, Ryan "Inside" Laney, H.J. Hollis, Ed Truncan, Aaron Clocker, and Harvey Rodcap). This suggests that it's possible that more veteran racers were fired than retired.