This sets up a classic (and reductive) sports binary: McQueen is the gritty old-timer, trained in the mud of yore and connected to a fading tradition of working-class excellence, while Storm is the cocky newcomer, engineered in a lab and tricked out with all the benefits of a growing technocracy. Think log-pulling Rocky Balboa facing off against the computerized strength of Ivan Drago or Midwestern hero LeBron James facing off against the steely Silicon Valley dominance of the Warriors. Cars 3 is simply feeding you a familiar sports talk radio narrative.
But here's the weirder thing: Who made that race simulator? There are all sorts of little machines, knick-knacks, and tools in the Cars universe that would probably require opposable thumbs to build or operate but the simulator feels different. If we buy the premise that there were humans at some point in the Cars universe, at least something like a race track, camera equipment, and Radiator Springs makes a little sense. But a giant computer simulator that represents a technological leap forward in the planet's most popular sport? Where are the engineer cars that built this thing? Or, are there still humans being kept alive somewhere underground, constructing racing simulators for their chrome over-lords?
These are all questions and concerns that will never be answered by the Cars series. In the same way the series never really make peace with its own thematic contradictions -- "I've never really thought of myself as a brand," says Lightning at one point, which is pretty laughable if you've ever walked into a toy store -- the movies doesn't bother to grapple with the bleaker mysteries implied by these stray story details. It's got races and puns to attend to.
Instead, truth-seeking fans will have to simply embrace the credo uttered by McQueen in the film: "Life's a beach and then you drive."