Winning the Florida 400 race was special to Jackson Storm. Why? Because of the one and only, Lightning McQueen. Storm was a huge fan of his for various reasons: McQueen had been the first rookie to win Piston Cup about ten years ago. Currently, his total record was eight trophies, which meant McQueen had beaten the King. He was the face of Dinoco and an international world champion.
But this was not all: McQueen was known for being difficult to work with. He had raced countless times without a crew chief on his team and the same pit crew never lasted over a year. Apparently McQueen had stated that they showed to be slowpokes and he could race alone without them. Storm couldn't believe his idol's unbreakable confidence and laid-back attitude. That's why he had been excited to finally compete against McQueen and impress him. Now the race was over, Storm drove off the stage and saw the legend himself coming towards him. McQueen had switched from Dinoco blue back to his original red paint a few years ago, but he preferred the golden tires over basic ones. Storm couldn't judge him for it, they looked fierce.
"Jackson Storm, huh? You did pretty well," Lightning complimented, flashing a bright smile. Storm didn't really respect older racers but this was Lightning McQueen. He didn't want to give a bad first impression so he returned the smile.
"Why thank you, Mr McQueen. You were great too, as always."
"Well, yeah. Could have done better but then I would have stolen your spotlight." Storm chose not to comment on that. Even after losing, McQueen's confidence never vanished. "So they say you're a frontrunner of the next generation. What's your max speed, kiddo?"
Storm wasn't expecting a question like that. Not like he minded but the truth was he was far faster than any other racing car. He wondered how McQueen would react since he owned the present speed record on the track.
"Uhm... I've managed to hit 214 mph."
Lightning's eyes grew wide. "Oh, that's... a good number." By listening to McQueen's tone, Storm got worried that he ruined the mood already. He tried to come up with something supportive which he seldom did for somebody else.
"200 mph is tough to get too... and if I remember correctly, you beat Francesco Bernoulli whose max speed is 220. From a stock car like you, it sounds impossible."
McQueen's signature smile was back.
"Looks like I got a fan."
Storm glanced away. He should have seen that one coming. Lightning took the silence as a cue. He felt much more relaxed to know the newcomer admired him and was not going to be a threat. Well, he was a threat either way but Lightning had years of experience. He was not going to be overshadowed that quick. He gave a poke on Storm's tire in a playful manner.
"Hey, I'm all about fans, kid. I'm happy to be an inspiration."
"Yeah, you do are...," Storm answered, "Just as a warning, I don't usually appreciate older racers for their slowness and I kinda have made it clear for everyone. So if I ever ignore you, don't take it personally." Storm was a straightforward guy and his image mattered a lot. Acting as a fanboy for McQueen in the public was simply not cool. He believed the other would understand. What Lightning had heard, on the other hand, was an insult to his age and his speed. And Lord, when he felt insulted...
Storm winced as he saw McQueen's angry stare. This meant no good.
"Excuse me, junior. Are you saying that I'm old and slow?"
"No, Mr McQueen, let me explain-"
"Oh, I heard you. You don't get to speak to me like that," Lightning spoke in a malicious way, the one he used to lecture his pit crew. "Winning me once doesn't make you superior. You have to earn it. Capiche?"
Typically, Storm would have said a clever comeback, but angering McQueen more didn't seem like a great idea. Besides, they were cameras everywhere. He needed to fix this and fast or else this could affect his career in some way. Storm put on his best guilty face.
"I'm sorry and you're right. All this is making me properly overwhelmed, so I end up blurting stuff that I don't actually mean..."
"Then what is your point?" Lightning asked, not buying Storm's apology.
"My point is I'm not going to act any different around you, at least while racing. I came here to make history after all," Storm admitted and gave a small smirk. Lightning remembered thinking the same way as a rookie too. Usually, newcomers were too insecure about themselves and took their time to get used to their careers. Storm was not one of those guys. Lightning saw the potential through and it got him both amazed and worried. He couldn't deny the fact that this rookie had both the speed and the hunger for success.
Storm's truck with his trailer arrived in the scene. He nodded at McQueen as a farewell and backed inside, but before pressing the door shut, McQueen had something to say.
Storm raised his eyebrow at him. The press and paparazzi gathered around them to take final pictures. McQueen was smiling at the cameras and then his eyes gazed right at Storm's. He moved a little bit closer and whispered: "I like your attitude, Jackson. Keep it up. And don't worry, I'm not mad anymore."
Storm tried to keep his smile petite and nodded once. He actually remembered his name.
"See you in the next race, babe," McQueen said in a clearer voice and winked, taking the press and paparazzi with him. Storm caught himself staring at McQueen's rear and shook his head. He has never been called 'babe' by another man before. It probably meant nothing but McQueen had an interesting dating history. Basically, the guy was a casanova to every car he found attractive.
Storm pressed the button to shut the door and turned on loud dubstep music. The season was just in the beginning and he had a great start. Let's see if McQueen is able to beat me.