Lightning McQueen, typically referred to by his surname McQueen, is an anthropomorphic racecar and the main protagonist in the 2006 animated Pixar film Cars. He was named after Pixar animator Glenn McQueen who died from skin cancer in 2002; it was erroneously believed after the film debuted that the name was influenced by actor and noted racing buff Steve McQueen. He is based on generic NASCAR vehicles, but with design influences from the Chevrolet Corvette. Late in the film, he is painted much like the Chevrolet Corvette C1. He is voiced by actor Owen Wilson in the film, Mater and the Ghostlight, the video game and Keith Ferguson in Cars Toons, Cars Mater-National, and Cars Race-O-Rama.
In the beginning of the film, Lightning McQueen is a skilled but arrogant racing rookie. Hoping to be the first rookie to win the Piston Cup race and gain a lucrative endorsement deal from Dinoco Oil, he finishes in a three-way tie with perennial runner-up Chick Hicks and veteran Strip "The King" Weathers.
En route to California for a tie-breaker race, he becomes detoured off U.S. Route 66 in New Mexico because of The Delinquent Road Hazards and finds himself in Radiator Springs, a nearly abandoned town which saw its livelihood largely taken away by the construction of Interstate 40 decades ago. McQueen accidentally destroys the town's main road because of his fear of the sheriff (he mistook the old cruiser's backfiring for gunshots), and the townsfolk require him to repair it.
It is established that while en route to California, and when he went with Sally to see the Wheel Well Hotel, that not only did McQueen not have close to any friends at the beginning of the movie, but that he also secretly found his life very unhappy. When Sally told McQueen the reason for leaving her lifestyle as an attorney, being that she wasn't happy, McQueen began to agree, but immediately puts on a surprised emotion to hide it.
Over the course of his stay in the town, he comes to form friendships with the residents of the town. He falls in love with a former city-dwelling attorney named Sally, and gains a deep respect and reverence for the town's judge and doctor, an ex-race car named Doc Hudson. These experiences lead McQueen to understand the importance of friendship and love, and that fame is not the most important thing in life.
When he eventually gets to the Piston Cup tie-breaker - with his friends from Radiator Springs as his pit crew - McQueen manages to make it to the finish line before Chick Hicks and The King. But after seeing The King being deliberatly spun out of control by Chick, crashing into the infield, and remembering the crash that had ended Doc's career, McQueen stops before the finish line, which allows Chick to win and take the Piston Cup.
McQueen decides to reverse back to help The King cross the finish line in order to retire with dignity. After the King reminds him how he just gave up the Piston Cup, Lightning reminds him of something Doc said, "It's just an empty cup." McQueen gains a large measure of respect from the public for this act of sportsmanship, and Dinoco offers him the endorsement after Chick is jeered by the crowd and denied the opportunity to celebrate for his reckless cheating. McQueen decides to stay with his original sponsor, Rust-eze, and moves his racing operations to Radiator Springs. Thanks to Lightning's endorsement, Radiator Springs sees a huge boost in tourism, and the town is saved, much to his friends' delight.
Cars video game
In the Cars video game, written by Pixar and considered a continuation to the story started in the movie, Lightning McQueen finds himself at the start of the next Piston Cup season. With the help of the citizens of Radiator Springs, McQueen readies to start his quest for the Piston Cup, taking lessons in powersliding from Doc, boosting from Fillmore, and racing backwards from Mater. With his skills, Lightning once again makes a championship run in the Piston Cup, much to the irritation of Chick Hicks, who hates him. Fearing his title is in jeopardy, Chick enlists the assistance of The Delinquent Road Hazards—DJ, Boost, Wingo, and Snot Rod —the same rowdy cars who detoured McQueen to Radiator Springs, to hijack McQueen's racing gear from Mack on Interstate 40. Lightning is able to retrieve the goods and bring the delinquents to justice before winning the next race, which sends Chick into a frenzy. Lightning challenges Chick to a Grand Prix in Radiator Springs, followed by one more Piston Cup race in L.A.. Lightning wins these events, taking the Piston Cup in his sophomore season.
At the end, Lightning, Mater, and Sally decide to take a celebratory trip across the country. When asked if he brought his trophy, Lightning notes he did not, but left it in a good place, at Doc Hudson's clinic next to the legend's own three Piston Cups.
Though Lightning McQueen is still sponsored by Rust-eze, players are able to unlock McQueen with a Dinoco paint job while playing as him in Story Mode, Arcade Mode, and VS. Mode.