ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (AP) — Brandon Brown wanted a way to change the narrative behind the “Let’s go Brandon” message after his first career NASCAR win inadvertently encouraged a chant that was used to insult President Joe Biden.
Brown discovered this new message thanks to the family of an 8-year-old boy with autism.
Brandon Brundage of Cottage Grove, Minn., was on a spring break trip to Houston in March when he saw signs with the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon.” He believed the signs were meant to encourage him. Consequently, he began trying activities he had never tried before, such as learning to swim and taking the training wheels off his bicycle.
His mother, Sheletta Brundage, used this story to write a children’s book titled Brandon Spots His Mark. Brown kept Brundage’s book cover on the hood of his Camaro for his own Xfinity Series race Saturday at Road America.
“To make this happen was like a breakthrough moment for us,” Brown said. “That could be a positive. That might be good. It doesn’t have to be hateful or divisive.”
That disagreement began after Brown earned his first career NASCAR win last October.
The crowd at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama chanted “F— Joe Biden” during the winner’s interview. NBC Sports reporter Kelly Stavast incorrectly told Brown that the fans were chanting “Let’s go Brandon.”
From that point on, “Let’s Go Brandon” became a rallying cry for Biden’s critics, with signs bearing that message popping up everywhere. Brown unintentionally found himself in the middle of the firestorm which surrounded these chants.
“I was just hoping that I could make it positive, I could get my name back and it wouldn’t be so divisive and scary where it wouldn’t be a political statement for my friends and family to cheer me on during a race,” Brown said .
This is where the Brundage family stepped in.
Sheleta Brundage is a mother of four children, three of whom have autism. She has written children’s books focusing on each of them. She said Brandon often dealt with social anxiety.
That changed after she saw all the “Let’s Go Brandon” signs and assumed people were cheering for him. He suddenly had a whole new attitude and wasn’t so shy about trying new things.
“He literally wanted us to put up flags in front of the house (saying), ‘Let’s go Brandon,'” Sheletta Brundage recalled. “I’m like, ‘That’s not going to happen. We will not put these flags in front of the house.”
Brown learns about this book from his mother and invites the Brundage family to Road America. They met in person for the first time this weekend and the two Brandons quickly became friends.
“I feel like I have a twin brother who’s bigger than me,” Brandon Brundage said.
The Brandies were handing out copies of “Brandon Spots His Sign” at Road America. The book’s cover design graced Brown’s car, although he was knocked out of the race on Saturday after being involved in a multi-car crash that led to him being examined and released from the on-site care center.
“I’m sorry for what you’ve been through this whole past year,” Sheleta Brundage told Brown on Saturday. “I know it was terrible. But I’m so glad it happened because this kid wouldn’t have had that breakthrough (otherwise). He would still be afraid to ride his bike without training wheels. He literally walks up to the kids and hands out this book. He would never do that (before).”