Prepare to be floored.
In a world populated by Anthropomorphism talking vehicles, the last race of the Piston Cup championship ends in a three-way tie between retiring veteran Strip Weathers, frequent runner-up Chick Hicks and brash rookie Lightning McQueen. The tiebreaker race is scheduled for one week later in California. Lightning is desperate to win the race, since it would not only make him the first rookie to win the Piston Cup, but also allow him to leave the unglamorous sponsorship of Rust-Eze, a bumper ointment company, and allow him to take The King's place on the prestigious and lucrative List of Pixar film references#Dinoco team. Eager to start practice in California as soon as possible, he pushes his Semi-trailer truck, Mack (Cars) to travel all night long. While Lightning is sleeping, Mack drifts off, and is startled by a gang of four reckless street racers, causing Lightning to fall out the back of the trailer and onto the road. Lightning wakes in the middle of traffic and speeds off the highway in search of Mack, but instead ends up lost in the run-down desert town of Radiator Springs where he inadvertently ruins the pavement of its main road by accident.
The short film opens with Mater playing pranks on the other residents of Radiator Springs: moving Red's flowers, bursting out from a pile of tires to scare Guido and Luigi, dressing up as a cone vampire to scare Sally, attempting to scare Lizzie while she's sleeping (which is unsuccessful), moving Fillmore's gas cans back outside while he takes them in, and jumpscaring Lightning McQueen when he believes Mater is hiding behind a pile of cans ready to jump out (what was really behind the pile of cans is one of Mater's signs). This sequence culminates with Mater teasing McQueen as if he had seen "the Spooklight," a U.S. Route 66 legend recounted to Pixar by Dean Walker of the Route 66 association#Kansas Historic Route 66 Association.<ref name="joplin-globe"></ref>
All of the Cars Toons follow the same formula: Mater tells a story of something he has done in the past. In the story, Mater finds himself in an inescapable predicament. When McQueen questions Mater over whether the events in the story actually occurred, Mater responds, "Don't you remember? You was there too!", and continues the story including McQueen's participation.
Finn McMissile, a British spy, infiltrates the world's largest untapped oil reserves owned by a group of Lemon to rescue a fellow spy. He witnesses the lemons, seemingly led by Professor Zündapp, load an electromagnetic pulse emitter, disguised as a camera onto a shipping crate. After being discovered, he flees and fakes his death.
Lightning McQueen and the other veteran racers of the Piston Cup Racing series suddenly find themselves struggling to win against next-generation rookies like Jackson Storm, who utilize advanced technology and modern training methods. As Storm's breakout success attracts other rookies to the series, most of the veterans either retire or are fired to make way and room for the new generation. In the final race of the season, McQueen desperately attempts to overtake Storm but loses control and suffers a violent and nearly fatal rollover crash, leaving him badly injured.