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Cars 3 Pays Tribute To These Veteran NASCAR Drivers

Pixar's Cars series may be popular with kids, but there's plenty of car content that adults can appreciate.

Pixar movies appeal to both children and adults alike, and Cars 3 will no doubt continue the trend. While it’s easy to write off the Cars series as money-making merchandizing machines designed to sell toys, Cars 3 promises to be full of references to car culture and motorsport that will resonate with car-loving adults. Case in point: lead character Lightning McQueen will retrace the roots of stock car racing and meet four characters based on racing veterans of the real-life NASCAR series, as detailed by ESPN.

New character River Scott voiced by Isiah Whitlock Jr., for example, is based on Wendell Scott, who is renowned for being the first, and so far, only, African-American driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race which inspired Pixar. "No one faced longer odds than Wendell Scott, racing where he did, primarily in the South, during the era when he did it, in the 1960s, and with little money at all," director Brian Fee told ESPN. "It really is amazing." Junior "Midnight" Moon, on the other hand, will be voiced by 85-year old Junior Johnson, who is the only living racing legend out of the four. Originally, an actor was going to voice the character. "They weren't run off by my accent, I guess," he jested.

In the movie, Johnson’s character will explain to McQueen how he learnt how to draft at Daytona. “I looked up at the movie folks and said, 'Yeah, that's true. I did.'" Meanwhile, Louise "Barnstormer" Nash was inspired by Louise Smith, a.k.a. “The First Lady of Racing.” Secretly, she entered her husband’s Ford Coupe into the 1947 Daytona Beach race, only to wreck the car. Her husband was none the wiser - until a photo of the ruined Ford was discovered in a local newspaper. "We've all got great stories," Johnson said. "But hers might be the best one of them all." Finally, the character of Smokey voiced by Chris Cooper is based on the legendary race mechanic Smokey Yunick.

Known for his expletive language, his character had to be toned down if the studio wanted to keep the movie’s kid-friendly rating. "We all read Smokey's book ["Best Damn Garage in Town"],” said Johnson. “It's so great. But if we'd written our script exactly as Smokey would've said it, we'd be in big trouble." Cars 3 will be roaring into cinemas on June 16, in what promises to be a darker and more mature movie than its predecessors.

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