Following Kansas Speedway’s announcement yesterday that its Sprint Cup race on May 9 had been re-christened the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, social media took it and ran with it.
There’s little doubt that Nickelodeon, the TV network behind the ubiquitous sea sponge, appreciates the buzz. But as interesting as the reaction has been, some might have forgotten this isn’t the first time SpongeBob and NASCAR have crossed paths.
In 2004, SpongeBob wasn’t just a children’s TV powerhouse but an emerging new pop culture standard. With a movie debut scheduled for November of that year, Nickelodeon decided to sponsor the Busch (now Xfinity) Series race that October at Charlotte Motor Speedway to promote the film.
The name of the race? The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie 300, which saw former Camping World Truck Series champion Mike Bliss score his first Busch victory on a late three-wide pass of Jimmie Johnson and runner-up Matt Kenseth.
Johnson, whose Chevrolet had a SpongeBob paint scheme, took third, and then-Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Busch was fifth in another SpongeBob-centric car (the hood featured Patrick, SpongeBob’s dimwitted starfish friend).
Nearly 11 years later, Bikini Bottom’s most famous resident is set to team up again with America’s most popular motorsport. And while we may joke about it, if it helps kids get hooked on NASCAR, that certainly would be a welcome result for the series.