How many times does Lightning McQueen win the Piston Cup?

Lightning McQueen, the main character of Pixar’s Cars franchise, is a famous race car who dreams of winning the prestigious Piston Cup. Over the course of the Cars films, we see McQueen compete in various Piston Cup races. But exactly how many times does he emerge victorious?

The First Piston Cup

In the original Cars film from 2006, McQueen is a rookie race car competing for the Piston Cup championship. The final race of the Piston Cup season takes place at the Los Angeles International Speedway. McQueen starts out strong, leading for most of the race. But after stopping to help fellow cars Strip Weathers and Chick Hicks who have been involved in an accident, McQueen falls behind. In the end, he manages to catch up to the leaders and ties with Strip Weathers and Chick Hicks for first place. Since there is no single winner, a three-way tiebreaker race is scheduled one week later in California.

The Tiebreaker Race

The tiebreaker race between McQueen, Weathers, and Hicks takes place at the Los Angeles International Speedway. McQueen chooses not to use any pit stops and tries to win solely based on his speed. Initially he takes the lead, but eventually wear and tear on his tires causes him to fall behind. On the last lap, one of McQueen’s tires blows out, but he is determined to finish the race. As he approaches the finish line, Hicks sideswipes Weathers, causing him to crash. McQueen notices this happen and screeches to a stop right before crossing the finish line. This allows Weathers to cross before him, technically giving Weathers the win. But the fans and officials admonish Hicks for his poor sportsmanship. In a surprise move, Weathers invites McQueen to stand on the victory podium with him, declaring the race a tie between the two of them.

So while McQueen did not definitively win the tiebreaker, he earned a shared victory with Weathers. This was McQueen’s first Piston Cup championship.

The Second Piston Cup

In Cars 3 from 2017, Lightning McQueen is now a veteran racer but is starting to be overshadowed by a new generation of high-tech rookies. At the start of the Piston Cup season, McQueen suffers a terrible crash that many believe means the end of his career. But after extensive training with veteran trainer Smokey, McQueen returns to compete for the Piston Cup. The final race is held at the Florida International Speedway. Going into the race, McQueen trails rival Jackson Storm in points and needs to win to take the championship. McQueen decides to skip new high-tech upgrades and rely on his natural racing instincts. Amazingly, his years of experience pay off. McQueen takes advantage after Storm and another car collide, allowing McQueen to zoom into the lead. He holds on to win the race, earning his second Piston Cup title.

Summary of Piston Cup Victories

Race Year Location Winner
Final Race of Piston Cup Season 2006 Los Angeles International Speedway Tie between Lightning McQueen, Strip Weathers, and Chick Hicks
Tiebreaker Race 2006 Los Angeles International Speedway Tie between Lightning McQueen and Strip Weathers
Final Race of Piston Cup Season 2017 Florida International Speedway Lightning McQueen

As shown in the table, Lightning McQueen definitively won the Piston Cup once in 2017. He also shared victory in a tie with Strip Weathers in 2006. So in total, McQueen has won the Piston Cup championship twice over the course of his career.

McQueen’s Other Racing Accomplishments

In addition to his two Piston Cup titles, Lightning McQueen also has other notable racing accomplishments:

  • Winner of the Radiator Springs Grand Prix – 2006
  • Winner of the World Grand Prix championship – 2011
  • Multiple individual race wins in the World Grand Prix series – 2011

The Radiator Springs Grand Prix was a one-time event held when McQueen was stranded in the town of Radiator Springs in 2006. Though a small local race, McQueen still emerged victorious.

The World Grand Prix was a globally televised racing series held in 2011. It took place across several continents and represented the highest level of international racing. McQueen prevailed over competitors like Formula One champion Francesco Bernoulli to earn this coveted title.

So in his illustrious racing career, Lightning McQueen has won the Piston Cup twice and also earned other prestigious racing championships. He is regarded as one of the greatest race car drivers of all time in the Cars universe.

McQueen’s Future Racing Prospects

With two Piston Cup titles and numerous other racing accomplishments under his belt, what does the future hold for Lightning McQueen? As of the end of Cars 3 in 2017, McQueen is still actively racing on the Piston Cup circuit. However, he is now one of the older veteran racers, and a new generation led by Jackson Storm presents an intense challenge. McQueen proved he can still compete by winning the 2017 Piston Cup, but at his age, retirement may be on the horizon.

Here are some possibilities for McQueen’s future racing prospects:

  • He attempts to win a third Piston Cup championship before retiring.
  • He mentors young rookie racers, passing the torch to the next generation.
  • He steps away from full-time racing but returns for special events.
  • He fully retires from racing and takes on an ownership, coaching, or broadcasting role.

McQueen’s passion for racing still burns strong, so he may have a hard time fully stepping away. But he also understands the need to make room for fresh talent. Fans will be eager to see if McQueen attempts to race for another Piston Cup or if he gracefully passes the torch to a new era of racers.

McQueen’s Lasting Legacy

Regardless of how the final chapters of his racing career play out, Lightning McQueen has certainly left a lasting legacy on the world of racing in the Cars universe. Some of his key achievements and contributions include:

  • Inspiring a devoted fan following with his bold personality and racing talent
  • Helping put the small town of Radiator Springs back on the map
  • Mentoring his friend Mater and teaching him about the racing world
  • Proving racers don’t need fancy upgrades to win, just skill and determination
  • Bringing attention to forgotten veteran racers by establishing the Hudson Hornet Piston Cup
  • Building the popularity of racing through successes like his Piston Cup wins and the World Grand Prix

McQueen’s mix of confidence and charisma makes him one of the most beloved and recognizable characters in the Cars franchise. For many fans, he is racing in the films’ universe. Even long after he retires from competition, McQueen’s influence and legacy will live on in future generations of racers striving to match his records and achievements.


Lightning McQueen has accomplished tremendous success across his racing career. He emerged tied for first in his rookie Piston Cup season in 2006. After an intense tiebreaker, he shared the victory with retiring legend Strip Weathers. Over a decade later in 2017, McQueen overcame doubters to win his second Piston Cup championship on the strength of his experience and determination. While the future is uncertain, McQueen has cemented his legacy as one of racing’s all-time greats with his two Piston Cup titles and other accomplishments. For Cars fans, McQueen represents the spirit of racing – an irrepressible drive to push limits, overcome challenges, and win.

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