How a NASCAR author, star and young boy flipped a hurtful phrase on his head

Thus an innocent misunderstanding by her son became a viral children’s book, resulting in a meaningful friendship with one of NASCAR’s top drivers. Together, they turn a hurtful phrase into something positive.

Brundage, a Minnesota-based broadcaster and media personality, writes children’s books In honor of her family. Three of her four children were born with autism, and her books are meant to educate families about the condition and show how much they love their children.

“Cameron goes to school” was for her daughter. Next came “Daniel Finds His Voice” in honor of her youngest son. In the future you will write about Andrew, the eldest of them, who does not have autism.

This year, it was the turn of nine-year-old Brandon. Brundage wasn’t sure if she could write one in time for Autism Awareness Month in April as she usually does. A lot was happening in the world. No idea really felt right.

Then, in March, a trip to Texas revealed the miracle she needed. While touring the RV park where the family was staying, Brundidge noticed that Brandon was suddenly full of confidence. Usually shy and quiet, the little boy would strut and smile, talk to strangers and, frankly, worry his mother with his newfound bravery.

“I thought, why is my son suddenly so brave?” Brundage told CNN.

“These are my fans,” Brandon replied. “They know me and love me.”

Brundage was puzzled until her son stopped her and pointed something out.

“See? It’s my mark!” He said.

Looking up, I was shocked to see a sign with the same slogan as the dozens of posters, banners, and other paraphernalia in the area: “Let’s Go Brandon.”

“That’s not a sign,” Brundage remembers telling her son. This is your book.

The book led to a magical encounter

The origins and meaning of “Let’s Go Brandon” are not very positive.

The phrase is a truncated section of “F*** Joe Biden” that originated during the broadcast of the NASCAR Sparks 300 race in October 2021. The crowd at the Talladega Superspeedway were chanting the phrase when NBC Sports reporter Kelly Stavast, apparently ignoring the phrase, claimed they were They say “Let’s Go Brandon” in honor of the race winner, Brandon Brown.

Conservative characters immediately stuck to the misinterpretation, deeply entrenched in the political vernacular. Now, “Let’s Go Brandon” ads are a common sight online and in any way conservative merchandise.

Brandon Brundage didn’t know any of that. For him, it was an encouragement.

Within a month of her son’s epiphany, and with plenty of hustle from her illustrator and publisher, Sheletta Brundidge released her new book, “Brandon discovers his mark“in April.

In the story, Brandon is concerned about participating in activities such as swimming and dancing because he fears autism will get in his way. Then he discovers “Let’s Go Brandon” messages encouraging him to take more chances. The back of the book also includes tips to encourage people with autism.

The book caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who sent Brandon a letter of admiration. It also reached out to Brown, the NASCAR driver who inadvertently helped produce the “Let’s Go Brandon” craze. Brown was openly ambivalent about the phrase, but was struggling to keep patrons in light of its polarizing nature.

Team Braun reached out to the Brundidges and invited them to their next Xfinity Series race. Within a week, the family was at the Wisconsin road racetrack, taking on the action as VIPs. Brown even had a Brundidge book cover strewn across the hood of his Camaro.

The book cover adorns the hood of Brown.

“I know how it goes. People invite you to places when you get some appreciation. But Brandon [Brown] “He was really the sweetest guy,” Brundage said. “He could have waited. He could have just seen the book and said, ‘That’s cool.’ But he understood the urgency of creating awareness.”

The younger Brandon even managed to help propel Brown’s car which, he told CNN, was one of his favorite parts of the day. This, getting to know fellow Brandon of course.

The boy also gave the driver an autism awareness necklace on a matching chain.

“He hasn’t taken it off since,” Brundage said.

The two of Brandon brag about autism awareness pendants.

For Brown, the charming meeting was an opportunity to relive a phrase he felt had gotten so bad.

“Getting this was like that breakout moment for us,” Brown said after the Xfinity Series race. “This can be positive. This can be good. It does not have to be hateful or contentious.”

CNN has reached out to NASCAR for comment.

That meeting sparked friendship

The new friendship between the Brandon family did not stop after the race. Sheletta Brundidge says Brown calls or texts her son all the time to talk about Minecraft or just to check on him.

The whole ordeal was a huge boost to the younger Brandon.

Brandon Brundage got his name signature on Braun's car.

“I’ve seen his confidence go through the roof,” Brundage says. “Children with autism are often chosen last or left out. Oftentimes, this is because other children do not understand why they are doing what they are doing.”

“You just have to pray for a good support system, and for love,” she continues. “Brandon Brown loved my child. He brought autistic children into the spotlight for the whole world to see.”

Now, Brandon Brundage has a new boyfriend, new fans, and heaps of new books to sign. (And it’s hard work, he told CNN.) His mother hopes this experience will show how much children with autism can thrive with love and encouragement.

And even amid a bitter split, there are always a few miracles.