*Lightning McQueen’s name is a dedication to Pixar animation supervisor Glenn McQueen who died in 2002.
*The number 95 on Lightning’s side is a reference to 1995, the year Toy Story was released. Also, the tyres are produced by the fictional company ‘Lightyear’, an obvious spoof of the manufacturer Goodyear and named after Buzz Lightyear.
*The number 86 on Chick Hicks is a reference t0 1986, the year Luxo. Jr was released.
*The King is sponsored by the fictional company Dinoco, an oil company first referenced in Toy Story.
*One of the cars in the opening sequence is sponsored by Apple. This is because Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, was also the CEO of Pixar.
*The Jackalope from the Pixar short Boundin’ (2004) appears on the back of a trailer during the opening scene.
*The car in the Rust-eze commercial has an Emeryville licence plate, Emeryville being the location of Pixar Studios.
*During the ‘Life is a Highway’ sequence the camera passes by the birds from the short film, For The Birds (2001).
*When Mack passes the truck stop several of the trucks have the initials for Pixar films emblazoned on the side, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo (2003) and The Incredibles (2004), the latter of which uses the same ‘i’ found on Mr. Incredble’s original costume.
*The train which Lightning narrowly avoids has an A113 licence plate.
*The stickers on Fillmore’s back contain lots of in-jokes, including one which says ‘Save 2D animation’.
*Stanley, whose statue is in Radiator Springs, first appeared in Boundin’.
*Mater also has an A113 licence plate.
*The final race takes place in Emeryville.
*As three planes fly over the race track you can see a bird’s eye view of the area around Pixar Studios.
*An anthropomorphised Pizza Planet truck appears during the final race.
*The flamingos, swimming pool and palm tree in front of the campervan during the final race are a reference to the Pixar short, Knick Knack (1989).
*During the credits the characters go to watch car versions of Pixar films including Toy Story, A Bug’s Life (1998) and Monsters, Inc. (2001). In a classic example of postmodernism, Mack (voiced by John Ratzenberger) points out that the same actor has been re-used to play Hamm, The Abominable Snowman and P.T. Flea. The joke being that he was the one who played each of those characters.