We’re chronicling 100 days of Indy 500 history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 62 days to go, Jeff Vrabel continues exploring the many tie-ins between the Indy 500 and pop culture.
More Vrabel: “500” in silent movie | In “Turbo” | The Beatles at IMS | Pace Car drivers | Snake Pit rebirth | The ultimate “500” playlist | David Letterman, pit reporter | Indy 500 on Atari 2600 | On “Jeopardy!” | More 100 days blogs
Pixar’s original “Cars,” in addition to being a really fantastic movie and giving us an unusual amount of actual feelings at the end, is basically a treasury of inside jokes for race fans. Happily, a lot of them are puns — there’s a Jay Limo, Darrell Cartrip and Bob Cutlass. A lot of the cars are modeled after actual classics and race cars, and most major characters can be traced back to someone in the racing world. And of course the wise, Jedi-like father figure Doc Hudson is voiced by Paul Newman, who was known to be pretty good at both racing and acting.
But if you’re making a definitive kids’ racing movie and you need an iconic voice, you go right to the top: The great Mario Andretti appears in the film as himself, a former race car who makes the very solid point that every day is a great day for racing. (In the movie, his character is based on the 1967 Moody Ford Fairlane in which he won the 1967 Daytona 500.) (Also in the movie, several of the characters, upon being addressed by the man himself, turn into blubbering starstruck fools, which is something we’ve seen happen in real life several thousand times with the 1969 Indy 500 champ.)
“Cars” also features the voices of Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who sends well wishes to both Lightning McQueen and the car who’s basically Richard Petty) and Michael Schumacher, who appears as a F430 Ferrari and picks up a nice set of whitewall tires. There’s not a bad Pixar movie on the lot, partly because when they need legitimate, authentic detail, they know right where to turn.