The world of auto racing is filled with legends from which Smugglers who founded NASCAR to Lewis Hamilton of Formula 1. But at the end of the day, each race can only have one winner. This makes it the perfect arena for determining which racing icon is best: Vin Diesel’s Fast and Furious character Dominic Torretto or Lightning McQueen from the Cars movies.
While a showdown between the corona-sipping family man and the Piston Cup’s greatest champion may seem unlikely, we think it’s important to recognize all types of racers and pit them against one another in dangerous competitions for which they were absolutely not designed. So, in the spirit of competition, we set out to find out what’s better, cinema’s ultimate driver or a sentient car voiced by Owen Wilson.
On one lane, we have Polygon’s resident car enthusiast Petrana Radulovic championing the one and only Lightning McQueen (for the record, he’s not a special car, although he seems to have it some characteristics of a Dodge Viper). On the other side is Austen Goslin, who will join the #Family and support Dominic Toret to in his 1970 Dodge Charger R/T.
Lightning McQueen and Dom come from two completely different racing worlds, so in the interest of debate we had to find a way to standardize the race. So we took our bearings from the underrated film cars 2in which the racing cars compete on a track with three different environments, so open wheel racing cars and production cars are equal in terms of skills and weaknesses.
So in this competition we have three different rounds: a street race, a Daytona style 500 mile race and finally a pure drag race.
Round 1: The street race
Peter: Unfortunately, my boy is at a serious disadvantage in a street race because he doesn’t have headlights or real mirrors. The Cars trilogy goes out of its way to show that he’s bad at driving places that are not race tracks. When it’s dark, he’s totally screwed. So when it comes to the street racing component, he’s definitely at a loss. We don’t even need to pull up stats and numbers here – Lightning is just going to eat shit this round.
Austen: Yes, Dom is definitely in his element at a street race. He’s done dozens in the Fast and Furious series so far, and in the later entries he’s usually chased by all sorts of tanks, bank vaults, and nuclear submarines. In other words, he’s a sluice here. But it looks like Lightning will get hurt. As good as Dom can drive, he’s just as good at crashing them, especially the ones he’s racing.
I think we can assume this is friendly competition and doesn’t necessarily mean to hurt Dom Lightning. Let’s say Lightning’s injuries are minor mainly because they were self-inflicted due to his general clumsiness in street racing.
Verdict: Dom wins the street race, but Lightning is still drivable.
Round 2: The NASCAR race
Peter: Lightning is at a disadvantage in this race; It’s likely that he picked up a few injuries during the road race. Except on the speedway is his strength and we’ve seen him come back from big falls in canon.
cars 3 starts by summing it up. But while it takes months of rehabilitation to get back on his feet (er, wheels), I doubt he’d be completely wrecked at this stage. Lightning is a seven-time winner of the Piston Cup, the most prestigious award in stock car racing in this universe. He knows his way around a racetrack. Most cars 3 focuses on Lightning in rehab as he progresses through coach Cruz Ramirez’s boot camp. Admittedly he has some problems with that fancy VR simulator, but he comes out on top and learns some important lessons. So I see him racing to a clean sweep despite a few bumps and bruises.
Austen: This is going to be tough for Dom. His last experience in a pro race, at least that’s what we see in the movies, was the day his father died. In other words, Dom doesn’t feel comfortable showing up to the event at all. Additionally, most of his races only last around 10 minutes and the Daytona 500 typically stretches over hours. Aside from being Lightning’s power, this means Dom gets crushed here.
Verdict: Lightning takes the gold.
Round 3: The Drag Race
Austin: That’s what it all boils down to, and this is where it gets complicated. We need to find out the quarter mile times for each of these racers.
According to the first Fast and the Furious film, Dom’s car can do the quarter mile in just nine seconds. His custom Charger is said to have 900 horsepower, and that’s before NOS’s boost. While the nine-second time was with Dom’s dad at the wheel, Dom has since become a vehicle-enabled superhero, so we think it’s fair to say he’s able to keep up with his old man’s time. All of this prepares Dom very well for this race, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as mods and vehicle customization are something of a specialty for him.
Peter: A drag race is all about reaction time and the fact that Lightning McQueen is a sentient car gives it a slight advantage here. He can react immediately and does not have to go through a flesh bag. He’s a lean, mean racer!
However, since it’s a production car, it doesn’t have the same horsepower as Dom. We don’t know exactly What Kind of Auto Lightning is, but Dom’s canon time is absolutely beyond Lightning’s capabilities. Even if he can manage that short lead, Dom will eventually overwhelm him and reach top speeds much quicker, knowing the finer calibrations of his own gearing inherently.
Verdict: Dom takes home the prize as the tallest of the two racers.
Unfortunately, Dom’s usual prize is a pink slip that gives him ownership of the loser’s car, but considering the car is sentient, that will likely only be bragging rights.