Regular A and B covers for Cars: The Rookie #4 – art by Allen Gladfelter
My fourth issue of The World of CARS: The Rookie was designed to complete the story of why the newly nicknamed “Lightning” McQueen was considered to be the “rookie sensation of the year.” I once again kept the interview framing device at the start and end of the story, and returned to McQueen narrating what happened from his somewhat exaggerated perspective, which meant I could again use visuals to contrast between his narrative and what actually happened. As the story opens McQueen is seen is his now familiar Rust-Eze paint scheme for the first time, and having established his speed on ovals is about to tackle a road course for the first time.
If I recall correctly I wrote this issue after watching a pretty thrilling NASCAR race on TV that had been held at the classic Watkins Glen circuit in upstate New York, one of the few road races on the NASCAR schedule; so I decided to model my story on that.
Watkins Glen was renamed “Bowling Lake” and we were off to the races. But not before McQueen has a nap on the grid, a character trait I added that was borrowed from several top line drivers who have been known to nod off while waiting in their cars for a race to start.
In the race itself I focused on a particular tight corner for all the action to happen with the ever eager McQueen learning an early lesson about the differences between ovals and road circuits that don’t have banking. He was quick on the straights but just couldn’t figure out how to get around the corners quickly. As the race progresses the young hot shot learned about the apex of a corner, and thanks to, Strip “The King” Weathers, that the key to speed on road courses is not how quickly you enter a corner, but how quickly you exit it.
I had some fun along the way having the Hummer crew chief throw in a few quotes from racing movies like Grand Prix, and Days of Thunder.
The story ends with Lightning being true to character and ignoring his crew chief’s advice (again) and staying out too long on worn tires. But thanks to some defensive driving by The King to keep the charging Chick Hicks behind, the struggling McQueen just crosses the line as his tire blows, but it’s enough for the rookie to score his first win.
I’d had a blast writing this “prequel” series for the CARS movie building the backstory of Lightning McQueen, and was pretty proud of the miniseries – which would eventually be collected in both paperback, and a special limited edition hardback editions.
Now we just had to wait and hope that we had also scored a win and that the sales numbers would be good enough for the planned return to Radiator Springs.
Unused connecting covers for Cars: The Rookie #4 – art by Allen Gladfelter