Rodger Bumpass introduced himself to 8-year-old Nick Oudin.
Oudin did not know Bumpass. But the voice he knew.
“Hello, Nick,” Bumpass said as his cartoon persona, Squidward Tentacles from SpongeBob SquarePants. “What do you think of Squidward?”
Nick stared at Bumpass and smiled.
“SpongeBob,” Bumpass said in his best Squidward, “can you go be stupid somewhere else?
Oudin and his parents, Chuck Oudin and Lisa Messick of Kansas City, were guests of Kansas Speedway for Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400, but Nick was the guest of honor.
In November, Nick was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and the last few months have been something of a whirlwind. A bucket-list trip to Orlando and Disney World was taken; another to the Colorado mountains is planned.
But Saturday was about the race and, specific to Nick’s interest, the title sponsor.
When Nickelodeon and NASCAR announced their partnership and the name of the race at Kansas Speedway, the idea was to attract a younger audience.
It also attracted Nick, a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants.
Nick was made the honorary crew chief for the SpongeBob SquarePants race teams, and undoubtedly he could identify the characters painted on the cars: David Ragan’s SpongeBob SquarePants Toyota Camry, Greg Biffle’s Patrick Star Ford Fusion, Ty Dillon’s Plankton Chevrolet SS, Casey Mears’ Squidward Tentacles Chevrolet SS and Michael McDowell’s Larry the Lobster Ford Fusion.
Before the race at the drivers’ meeting, Nick sat next to Jack Grifol, who plays Max Thunderman on Nickelodeon’s The Thundermans. Later, Nick had a chat with driver Jeff Gordon.
“He’s holding up well,” Chuck Oudin said. “It’s a busy day.”
A good one.
“Can you mention Children’s Mercy Hospital?” Oudin said. “They’ve been top of the line, absolutely wonderful.”