SpongeBob wakes up, as well as waking up Gary. He tells the world he is ready. He sees Squidward getting a package in the mail, with the mailfish erroneously pronouncing his last name as "Tennisballs". SpongeBob questions that Squidward's last name is "Tentacles", and Patrick says poor guy. He opens the cage, which contains a snail named Snellie. Patrick checks out Squidward's new snail. SpongeBob sees this and tells Gary that he has a new little playmate. However, Squidward immediately protests and explains that Snellie is a purebred of the highest pedigree, and that she is going to be entered in the Bikini Bottom Snail Race on Sunday and she will win it.
SpongeBob says that he can't enter Gary because Sunday is laundry day. Squidward then tells SpongeBob that he can't enter Gary because Gary is a "mutt", which offends SpongeBob. He asks what makes Squidward think Gary couldn't win. Squidward says the paper. Patrick reads Snellie's pedigree certificate and misreads Squidward's name as "Tentpoles", which makes Squidward angry, yet again. SpongeBob decides to enter Gary into the race. Patrick also decides to enter into the competition.
SpongeBob (wearing a play mustache and a coach's outfit) tells Gary to start training now. Sandy is walking and decides to kick SpongeBob's butt tomorrow, but she doesn't know why. SpongeBob makes a shake with weird ingredients and gives it to Gary, but Gary runs to the living room. Patrick shows SpongeBob his snail, which is a rock. Patrick says he has nerves of steel. SpongeBob decides to train Gary as hard as he can.
On the day of the race, Gary is exhausted from SpongeBob's brutal training. During the race, his eyes and shell explode, revealing a car engine, and he spirals out of control like a race car. SpongeBob, seeing the error of his ways, tells Gary that he can stop now, but Gary keeps on going. SpongeBob runs onto the track, which the announcer says that it's an "automatic disqualification". Gary hits the wall and explodes completely, and then an upset SpongeBob runs up to him and embraces him, crying.
Snellie, who is almost at the finish line, turns around to help Gary, and the two instantly fall in love. Squidward is shocked at this and walks onto the track, and SpongeBob says to him, "Looks like you and me are in-laws, eh, Squidward?". Squidward then sees that, much to his surprise, Patrick's rock won the race. It is Unknown how, but this happened. Patrick was then very proud of his rock. Squidward is very upset by this, but Patrick then tells Squidward that he had the trophy engraved to him, and gives it to him, knowing how much Squidward wanted to win. Squidward thanks Patrick, but then reads the trophy, which reads "The 1st place Snail Racing cup presented to Squidward... TORTELLINI?!" He groans and says "Will I ever win?", and they all start laughing and then Sandy appears onscreen kicking SpongeBob yelling "That's for yesterday, SquarePants!".
There is a deleted scene in which Sandy is arrested for kicking SpongeBob's butt. This was cut for unknown reasons.
"The Great Snail Race" was ranked #35 during the Best Day Ever event on November 9–10, 2006.
Some fans have criticized this episode due to SpongeBob pushing Gary mean spiritedly and having Gary explode like a race car, which was regarded as not funny and a bit of animal abuse. However, some fans have praised it for the Squidward Tortellini joke. Some fans have considered it to be one of the worst pre-movie episodes (along with "I'm with Stupid") from the Hillenburg era (1999-2004). PIEGUYRULZ said the episode was uncomfortable to watch ("The first half is SpongeBob pushing Gary too far, and the second half is Gary disgustingly crashing!") and declared it as his least favorite episode of the original run.
A snail identical to Snellie appears in "The Sponge Who Could Fly" as Mrs. Puff's snail. However, she states that, "I've had her since I was a little girl," meaning that this could not be Snellie. Also in "Gary in Love" Snellie appears as Mary. This could be because Snellie is likely a character model.
This episode was the only episode from the Hillenburg era (1999–2004) on the "Where's Gary"? DVD.
This is the first episode to air in 2003.
This is the episode where SpongeBob found out Squidward's last name.
SpongeBob's unicycle, first seen in "Boating School", appears in this episode.
SpongeBob shouts "Move it! Move it!" like Lt. Harris in Police Academy or like Sereant Carter from the television series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
In the Brazilian dubbing, Squidward's last name "Tentáculos" is misspelled "Tem Tacos" (have clubs) by the mailman and "Tem Óculos" (have eyeglasses) by Patrick. Snellie is called "Caracolina", a combination of "Caracol" (snail) and "Carolina" (a given name).
On the (4/18/2012) airing at the Philippines (a single episode) the credits are different form that of the original because it uses the credits from a future episode, Boating Buddies.
In early Russian airings Chocolate With Nuts was aired first and The Great Snail Race was second; however, in later Russian airings, the order of the two episodes is changed.
This is another episode to show SpongeBob as the main antagonist and one of the few times in the pre-movie era.