It does not matter how long it takes to earn it or how it’s gained.
You can never ever forget your first win in any racing series. It does not matter if you lead the most laps or just one. It’s the first win, and nobody can ever take that away.
The emotion is hard to forget, as well as the thoughts of a driver as the checkered flag falls and the ensuing celebration afterward. In the case of most drivers, they’re able to go back years later and rewatch the victory celebration and their elation during their on-track or victory lane interview.
Sadly, part of that post-race celebration for Brandon Brown was tainted on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 2) at Talladega Superspeedway, and it had absolutely nothing to do with anything that Brown or his small-budget Brandonbilt Motorsports did. Saturday’s win at Talladega marked the apex of a tough and grueling journey for Brown and his family — to win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
“This is everything we hoped and dreamed for. Everything I’ve ever wanted to do is take the trophy home to Mom and Dad,” Brown told NBC Sports following the win. “Oh, my god. Thank you so much Larry’s Lemonade … all of our partners. It’s unbelievable.”
After climbing out of his car and celebrating, Brown was interviewed on frontstretch, as has become the custom in the last few years. That’s where a small but cowardly group of fans ended up hijacking Brown’s victory celebration.
In case you missed it, an audible chant was not, unfortunately, “Let’s Go Brandon.” Rather, it was … well … in order to keep this column somewhat family-friendly, combined a word that rhymes with “duck” and the current occupant of the White House. We don’t have to be any more graphic than that.
Forever in time, when you watch Brown’s interview, one of the best underdog moments for this series since wins by Jeremy Clements and David Gilliland, his interview will be tainted by “fans” that chose to sling mud on this win by using it to make a political statement.
While Bubba Wallace‘s win on Monday helped get him mentioned on outlets that would seldom mention NASCAR such as The Today Show, the post-race reaction has been referenced mockingly in various comment sections and news sites such as BlazeTV and Real Clear Politics.
Look, I couldn’t care less who you voted for when it came to president, governor, mayor or even dogcatcher. Using a victory celebration for your own political purposes is not and should never be OK. Ever. It’s as same as it would have been in Atlanta Motor Speedway in March or July if fans had chanted “#$%@ Brian Kemp” or if fans at Daytona International Speedway had chanted likewise toward Donald Trump (they obviously didn’t do that in February 2020). Contrary to what a small pocket of fans portrayed late Saturday afternoon, who you vote or didn’t vote for should have absolutely nothing to do with what happens during race weekend.
That’s obviously tough to do when you have race teams able to creatively get sponsorship by putting a political candidate’s name of cause on the hood of the car … see Corey LaJoie’s ride a year ago, for example. But it’s still something that should not be on the track. There are fans at the track each weekend who, for them and their family, going to the race is the closest thing to a vacation they get each year, their only way to escape dealing with some crappy stuff that may be going on. The same goes for fans watching on TV. Someone should not watch a race and be struck with a political message. End of story.
Brown’s big moment was partially tainted and that’s a shame. Sadly, the reaction to some may be to broadly brush it as “well, that’s Alabama … what do you expect at Talladega?”
That’s equally unfortunate for the majority of fans that frequent the mammoth facility twice a year. I’m long-time friends with multiple fans of racing and college football that call the state of Alabama home, one of which enabled me to crash at their house during a Talladega race weekend a number of years back.
To quote a song by a band originally from Alabama, the Drive By Truckers,
“But there were a lot of good folks down here and Neil Young wasn’t around.”
According to Jeff Gluck of The Athletic, Brown is working on “Let’s Go, Brandon” t-shirts.
For the sake of Brown and race fans everywhere, here’s to hoping for a second win and one that Brown will be able to always cherish…one that won’t be marred by a small group of fans with bad intentions.
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