DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow talked to drivers, checked out cars and turned a few laps at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
He also signed autographs, posed for pictures and mostly avoided interviews.
Tebow, serving as grand marshal for one of the Daytona 500 qualifying races Thursday, declined to address reporters in the media center because he wanted to avoid talk about his Super Bowl commercial and his NFL future. But in a brief session in the NASCAR garage, he joked that he was hoping his "Gentlemen, Start Your Engines" line would get less criticism than his elongated football delivery.
"I actually think the way I (pronounce) it, it will probably be a little bit off, so I'm going to be working on that," he said.
Tebow also joked that he was thinking about saying, "Gentlemen, Giddy Up!" instead.
In the end, Tebow called an audible and went with "Drivers, Start Your Engines." He delivered it without a hiccup and then took a ride in the pace car.
It was all part of his duties as grand marshal. The races are sponsored by Gatorade, and Tebow recently signed with the sports drink giant. He met several drivers and crew chiefs at the pre-race meeting, then spent some time in the No. 42 Chevrolet hauler with Juan Pablo Montoya and owner Felix Sabates.
"It's just really exciting," Tebow said. "It's a great opportunity for me to meet a lot of people. To be here with Gatorade is a great opportunity and to just be able to meet these people, meet the divers, get to know a sport better and just be around it.
"It's just a great opportunity, and for me, just the relationships are everything, and so just building these relationships, and getting to meet these people you hear about. It's a great event for me."
Tebow could have more sponsorship deals in the works. He already helped the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family by participating in a 30-second "Celebrate family, celebrate life" ad. The much-hyped spot featured Tebow tackling his mother after she says she nearly lost him during her pregnancy. The pair jokes that they have to be "tough" with all the family has been through.
Tebow also is reportedly close to signing a deal that would land him on the cover of EA Sports' NCAA Football 2011 video game, which will be out this summer.
"I don't know if I'm becoming the face of products, but I'm enjoying the transition," Tebow said. "It's something that has been a lot of fun, a little bit overwhelming, but very enjoyable. I'm just trying to take everything in stride and just stay focused and keep working as hard as I can and looking forward to everything in the future."