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Monday, January 24, 2022

Brandon just wants to drive his racecar

My colleague, columnist John McHorter, a trained linguist, noted in a recent essay that the catchphrase was an American example of an euphemistic language practice known in South Africa as holonifa, in which an innocuous word or phrase was replaced by a Substituted for an accent that might give offense. “Let’s go, Brandon!” Mr McWhorter wrote, also serves as an “in-group salute” for Republicans.

It didn’t seem to sit very well with Mr. Brown. “I don’t want it to be just a substitute for abusive words,” he said. Then he reconsidered his position: “I mean, if it’s making it more polite, then, by God, I guess, go ahead,” he said.

Part of his problem is that he has to face the microcosm of navigating NASCAR. Roy Furchgott recently wrote in The New York Times, “The Car Racing Association’s “challenge is to appeal to a new audience without alienating an older audience, even as it attempts to distance itself from the old audience.” NASCAR is trying to appeal to a younger and more diverse new generation of fans and hang on as the cultural center of the conservative white South. Earlier on the day of Mr. Brown’s victory, a group of race fans outside the speedway The convoy carried the Confederate flag, the fourth such protest against NASCAR’s ban on the Confederate flag from its events.

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“This whole Talladega race win was supposed to be a celebration, and then it should have been something that I was able to use going forward, and I really wanted to capitalize on that,” Mr. Brown said. “But with this meme going viral, it became more and more silent, because everyone wanted it to go on the political side. I’m all about the racing side.”

Before our lap, we talked about racing, and Mr. Brown was animated and intense as he explained the basics: how the Xfinity Series is similar to AAA, the highest rung of minor-league baseball, and how to conserve gas. Why is important (you lose refueling time). After the drive, we sat down at a picnic table by Dominion Raceway. My stomach started to freeze and I started asking him about politics.

Mr. Brown looked away from me on the track, trying to make sure he spoke carefully. He is a Republican, he said. He makes sure to vote on Election Day, and he wants to encourage others to vote as well, but he won’t reveal who he voted for.

And did he think we should cuss at Joe Biden?

“The point is, I don’t really know enough about politics to form a true opinion, so I really focus on racing,” he said.

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