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Take a Lap Around Sonoma Raceway #Cars3Event

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Sonoma Raceway Cars 3

So, what do you do when you work at Pixar and you find yourself knee-deep in the middle of the creation of Cars 3. How do you make sure your animation is right? How do you make sure your story is right? How do you make sure you are being emotionally realistic? Well, of course, you head off to Sonoma Raceway and learn everything there is to know about racing, race cars, fixing race cars, and driving race cars. You live, breathe, eat and dream race cars and racing. So what do you do when Disney invites you to come to California for the #Cars3Event. You do what all those creative minds at Pixar did and you spend time at Sonoma Raceway!

Sonoma Raceway is pretty – I never expected to think of a car race track that way, but there is no denying it. Pretty, green, well-maintained and really, really fascinating. Situated among the hills, the raceway has a permanent seating capacity of around 47,000. During major races, hospitality tents and other stages are erected around the track, which brings the total capacity up to around 102,000 seats. 

Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar

Pit Stop Training and Challenge (Photo by Marc Flores)

What a day. An early day that started off at 6:00 a.m. To get to the raceway our shuttle started winding it’s way through the hills surrounding San Francisco before it was light out. Through beautiful green hills filled with grape vines and small signs advertising wine tastings and vineyard tours. Never having been a racing fan I wasn’t sure what to expect, it was really early morning and I was still tired. I sat watching the scenery go by. Taking in the prettiness. Listening to the quiet chatter of 24 other bloggers who obviously knew much more about race cars than I did. There was a schedule full of interviews, presentations, taking a ride in a race car, a pit stop challenge and more that would have us at the raceway until late in the day.

A ride in a simulator! (Photo by Marc Flores)

From the moment we arrived I knew that Sonoma Raceway was just as excited for us to visit, as we were to be there! Sonoma Raceway was excited about Cars 3! 

Everywhere we turned we saw something else to remind us of the film and something else that would have us appreciating the “racing family” more. Putting aside the Cars 3 Event Press Day, if you are ever in the area, a visit to Sonoma Raceway has to make it on your ‘MUST VISIT’ list.

Fun loving and brave bloggers getting ready to take a lap around the track!

(Photo by Marc Flores)

(Photo by Marc Flores)

Touring the facility gave me such an appreciation for racing. I was apprehensive since high speeds and lots of motion aren’t really my thing, but excited at the same time because I knew I would learn what went into making Cars 3 and that’s really where my interest was. I couldn’t wait to find out how the creators of the film, which I had screened a portion of the night before, were able to have me think of the cars as characters first and vehicles second. How they were able to instill the emotional realism – which is an important part of every Pixar film – into cars. Cars that have us thinking of them as humans, with feelings and emotions. I wanted to learn about racing what they learned about racing that helped them create this latest Cars film. I wasn’t disappointed!

Creative Director Jay Ward and Ray Evernham, Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

One of the most amazing presentations was about the history of racing. Since there are portions of the film that give homage to some of the original legends of racing, this was a presentation full of great information. Stories from the early history of racing with photos and details and fun! Oh My! The history of stock car racing, the evolution of car design, stories of legendary drivers ~ told by Jay Ward, Creative Director at Pixar (think of him as basically John Lassiter’s eyes and ears on all things Cars 3) and Ray Evernham, Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports.

Ray Evernham, Former Crew Chief for Hendrick Motorsports (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

Creative Director Jay Ward (Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar)

This was my favorite presentation of the day. I came away thinking of these two as the dynamic duo of racing comedy. It was obvious from the moment they started they have a great respect for each others knowledge. It was obvious they have spent lots of time together researching racing for the making of the film. It was obvious they loved what they do . . . and it was contagious! I came away having a totally different thought on the racing world. It’s a world full of family, full of respect, full of love and excitement. And all of those feelings will come through in Cars 3. It will come through because of their passion for the sport and their passion for the movie.

Stock car racing is a quintessentially American pastime that was developed in the days of Prohibition. Picture it – A bunch of dirt poor good ol’ boys who lived anywhere from Virginia on down to Georgia had no other choice to survive than the illegal whiskey business. They souped up their cars to haul their bounty, and then ran from the law like their behinds were on fire. Since boys will be boys – they started racing each other on local roads to prove who had the fastest car. Then, somebody got the bright idea to cut a track out of a cow pasture somewhere, and the rest, as they say, is history! By the time Prohibition ended in 1933, racing and modifying normal vehicles had become extremely popular. By 1948 it was a widespread sport.  The most famous bootlegger to make a name for himself in racing was Junior Johnson. 

Over the years, stock car racing has evolved from a band of drivers who raced for gas money on tracks primarily in the South, to millionaire owners and drivers who race at tracks across the country from North Carolina to California. Its a way of life for many. Its in the blood and heritage of many. The history is fascinating.

Lightning McQueen connects with racing’s roots in “Cars 3.” From left: River Scott, Junior “Midnight” Moon, Smokey and Louise “Barnstormer” Nash. Disney/Pixar

ESPN recently did an article on the legends of racing that are represented in Cars 3. You can read the full article HERE and get a sense of what I learned during the presentation.

I was not a race car fan before my visit, but I sure am now! How about you – are you a race car fan? 



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CARS 3 opens in theaters everywhere on June 16th!

I was provided an all expense paid trip to San Francisco. All opinions are my own.