He was once one of the most famous racecars in history; he won three Piston Cups in a row, and still holds the record for most wins in a single season. However, it all changed for Doc when he was involved in a terrible crash during the final lap of the 1954 Piston Cup championship race, which saw him put out for the season. Upon his return, he was received with a complete absence of fanfare and told that he was a has-been who had been passed up for the next rookie in line. He kept a newspaper article on the career-ending crash as a reminder to never to return to the career that nearly killed him.
- “'They quit on me. When I finally got put together, I went back expecting a big welcome. Know what they said? "You're history." Moved onto the next rookie standing in line. There was a lot left in me. I never got a chance to show 'em.”
- ―Doc tells Lightning why he left racing.
Jaded by the racing scene, he left that world, apparently taking out time to study medicine. The famous #51 disappeared into obscurity, leaving many wondering where he had gone. He instead opted for a simple navy blue paint job and the life of a physician in the tiny town of Radiator Springs, the "shining Gemstone" of the Mother Road - Route 66. He runs Doc's Clinic as a "doctor of internal combustion". As times changed and the town got bypassed in favor of Interstate 40, Doc stayed on, even when the population had dwindled to a meager dozen or so residents. He is respected, well-loved, and serves not only as the town's physician, but as its judge as well. However, nobody in the town had any idea of his past as a racer; he was just an ordinary Hudson Hornet to them.
"Doc is a car of few words but many talents. He not only serves as the town judge, he's also Radiator Springs' resident doctor. Doc is respected and admired by the townsfolk for the way he looks out for their health and tends to their aches and pains. No one knows too much about Doc before he came to town. He keeps his private life private, but if you've got a bad spark plug or a rattle in your engine, his door is always open."
Upon meeting Lightning McQueen, Doc saw far too much of his past in the rookie. Doc was less than happy when Lightning discovered his past career. After Lightning finished fixing the road he damaged and decided to stay for a while, Doc was unable to bear having him around any longer and called the news and press to immediately take him away to the Piston Cup, declaring that it is best for everyone, but seeing how disheartened everyone was by his unplanned departure, Doc realized that Lightning had become more important to them than he thought. He eventually admits the truth to everyone about his Racecar days and he took back his old #51 colors to become Lightning's pit crew chief, bringing nearly the entire town (except Sally, Red, and Lizzie -- who watch the race on TV) to the Piston Cup to support Lightning as his pit crew (and in an ironic twist of fate, finally received that long awaited fanfare for his return). When McQueen chooses to forfeit the race so he can help Strip Weathers finish his last race after Chick Hicks caused the latter to crash, Doc smiles, expressing how proud he was of Lightning's sportsmanship.
By the end of the film, Doc opts to keep his racing colors, and becomes a trainer as well as a friend to Lightning. Just like Lightning, Doc learned some lessons: friendship, promises, how greed affects others, and that secrets can't be kept forever no matter how long you try to keep them.
Doc appears in the short film, where he scares Mater into believing in a monster called the Screamin' Banshee, which actually ends up existing.
Sadly, Doc died prior to the events in Cars 2, but posters of him are still shown in his museum. In memory of him, the Piston Cup was renamed the Hudson Hornet Memorial Piston Cup, and gets a new logo with an image of the Hudson Hornet and the words "Hudson Hornet" above it. It appears prominently on Lightning McQueen's hood. Doc’s office was converted into the Hudson Hornet Racing Museum. When Lightning was showing Mater his new Piston Cup, he mentions how he knew Doc always said Piston Cups were just old cups and Mater tells him that Doc would have been real proud of him for winning his latest race. He is also mentioned a few times during the race in Tokyo. Darrell Cartrip mentions him as being one of the greatest dirt racers of all time while talking about McQueen when he and all the other racers are lining up at the starting line and when the racers reach the dirt section, Mater tells Lightning to do what Doc has taught him (turn right to go left), which he does and takes the lead. Another allusion to Doc is made in the end during the Radiator Spring Grand Prix when all the racers drive up the side of the canyon where Willies Butte is located just like how Doc used to do.
The circumstances of how Doc died are still unknown, especially considering the fact he's a vehicle.
John Lasseter was at first adamant in 2007 that Paul Newman would return to voice Doc Hudson in Cars 2, even though he had announced his retirement from acting. After Newman's death in 2008, Lasseter said that they would see how the story goes with Doc Hudson. Story supervisor Nathan Stanton said: "we felt, after really tooling around with the idea of him being in the film and how do we properly use him, it just felt right that we should have his character have passed away also [as Paul Newman]." John Lasseter said that he realized "Doc Hudson was Paul Newman. The character was written after listening to him talk about his passion for racing." and that "We pay homage to Doc Hudson, which is paying homage to Paul Newman".
After Lightning McQueen is forced out of the racing world following an accident during a Piston Cup race, he looks to his former mentor for inspiration. His voice is provided by archived records of Paul Newman for a series of flashbacks. The flashbacks depict Doc racing with old friends and competitors, such as Louise Nash and Junior Moon. In one sequence, Doc performs a flip move to overcome another racer. McQueen's student, Cruz Ramirez, utilizes this technique to win the Florida 500. It is revealed that Doc crashed at the Daytona Beach race from losing control one lap after taking the lead. Doc first appears in flashback when he is talking to McQueen about real racing. When Lightning meets Smokey, Louise, River Scott and Junior Moon, they tell him of stories of Doc in the old days. Doc didn't let the new rookies stop him from coming in first and beat them even if they were faster than them. Lightning thought Doc wasn't happy like he was after his crash, until Smokey took him to his garage and showed him all the things Doc sent him since he began training Lightning. During this, McQueen has flashbacks of his old mentor, including where Doc was twirling stuff on his nose and told him to take notes on it, when he and Doc were racing and Doc smiled and laughed at him when he fell into the Cactus again. Smokey tells him that, while nothing was ever the same after his crash, Lightning is what made him so happy about racing again. At the end Lightning now acts as a racer and crew chief to Cruz and Dinoco/Rusteze. Lightning decides to try something new and takes a new paint job inspired by Doc, having a "old-school" look to him now and races with Cruz like he and Doc used to do.
A blue Hudson Hornet can be seen in The Incredibles. Even though Cars was released after the Incredibles, development of the film was already well under way.
Doc Hudson appears in Radiator Springs Racers at Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. Set between the two films to allow for his presence, Doc Hudson serves as the crew chief for the guests, appearing in Audio-Animatronic form before the race to offer advice as well as providing radio chatter in the cars while they are out on the track.
His medical office and the museum established inside of it is also part of the dining complex for Cars Land's version of Flo's V8 Cafe.
During every Halloween season since 2017, an ofrenda of Doc was set up in Ramone's House of Body Art.
- Doc Hudson is a 1951 Hudson Hornet.
- A blue Hudson Hornet can be seen in The Incredibles, an Easter egg appearance of Doc Hudson. Even though Cars was released after The Incredibles, development of the film was well under way.
- The Hudson Hornet was one of the first cars used by drivers in the beginning of NASCAR.
- The story of the Fabulous Hudson Hornet is true. Many Hornets used in NASCAR at that time actually used that quote on their body paint design. Hudson won the championship from 1951-53.
- Doc's appearance in the Radiator Springs Racers ride at Cars Land implies that the events of the ride take place before the events of Cars 2. However, this is contradicted when, while Lightning and Mater congratulate the guests after the race, the former occasionally mentions the time he raced in the World Grand Prix.
- All of Doc's lines for the ride are performed by Corey Burton and this was his last time voicing the character to date.
- Doc Hudson started racing in the Piston Cup series in 1951, the same year his car model debuted: this technically would make him, in real life, the true first rookie winning the Piston Cup.
- His license plate is 51HHMD, which is a reference to his year and track number (51), model (Hudson Hornet) and profession (medical doctor).
- He was Paul Newman's last acting role. Also, like Newman, he has blue eyes.
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