Fender bender for Best Western?

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Whether or not you're an auto racing fan, you may have heard about this week's NASCAR cheating scandal in the run-up to the sport's biggest event, the Daytona 500 on Sunday. A number of race teams have been penalized to varying degrees for violating a range of rules related to how the cars are prepared for the race.

Unfortunately for Best Western, one of the worst offenders was the Michael Waltrip team, which was caught with an illegal additive in the car's gasoline supply. Heads rolled, fines were levied and the car was ruled ineligible for the big race. (Waltrip was able to qualify in a back-up car so all was not lost.)

Nonetheless, it all adds up to bad publicity for Best Western, which is one of the sponsors of Waltrip's team and which uses the driver for a variety of promotional and goodwill duties. In fact, just two weeks ago, Waltrip and his car shot a commercial for Best Western in Sedona, AZ. According to press reports, Waltrip has claimed ignorance about the incident and apologized profusely. And so far, Best Western is sticking by its man.

The question, of course, is whether this event will give Best Western any sort of long-term black eye. I seriously doubt it. NASCAR fans are tremendously loyal and have short memories for bad stuff, and Waltrip is a very popular and personable representative of the sport. And those legions of travelers who neither understand or appreciate the nuances of stock-car racing will care less. All in all, it should be no worse than a fender bender for Best Western and its marketing plans.

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