- Associated Press - Friday, January 13, 2012

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne said Friday he admires Tim Tebow and wishes he displayed his faith as strongly as the quarterback does.

Bayne was the upset winner in a thrilling finish last year in the Daytona 500, and the 20-year-old Baptist has used his newfound fame as a platform for his religion. He said he talked to Tebow over the phone in the whirlwind media tour following his victory and that the Denver quarterback gave him useful advice.

The two met in person briefly at the ESPYs and have since exchanged occasional text messages.

“He gave me a lot of great advice because he’s been through things that I had not yet got to, and now I’ve experienced them and his advice really helped out,” Bayne said. “Tebow is a great guy. He is everything that he says he is, and I think that’s what’s so awesome because we see so much in our world of people talking up a good game … but they are not what they say they are. I think he really is.

“It’s definitely somebody I look up to and I’d like to wear my faith on my sleeve a little more like he does.”

Tebow is the son of evangelical missionaries and does not hide his religious convictions, and Bayne said he understands why that’s so polarizing.

“It’s polarizing to me because it’s something different that I think our world needs and I think it desires,” Bayne said. “When you look at somebody and see something different, you wonder what that is and I think Tim Tebow’s made that very clear what it is. I think that’s our mission is to make it very clear if we look different to the world it’s because of Jesus.”

Bayne said he started racing with the goal of becoming a famous champion, but his priorities have shifted as he’s gotten older. He talked after his Daytona victory of using his new platform for his faith, and his father, Rocky, insisted that Tebow’s No. 15 being among the NFL’s best-selling jerseys was evidence that an athlete with strong religious views can attract fans.

Bayne missed six weeks of racing last year when he was hospitalized for a mystery ailment that was ultimately diagnosed as Lyme disease. He spent a week undergoing tests at the Mayo Clinic.

“I wanted to win races and I wanted to have the most followers on Twitter or the most fans, but I think that’s changed over the last few years,” Bayne said. “It’s not about me, it never has been, it’s not about what I do here. But it’s about what happens for the Kingdom and I think this year I am a lot more fired up about storing my treasures in heaven instead of here.

“So I think it’s a really great thing that Tim Tebow is staying firm in what he believes in. He’s not letting that change him. I can see how that would be really hard when you have that much flak that you are catching. It would be easy to change and waiver, but I think the reason he doesn’t is because it’s real.”

Bayne this year put out a book called “Driven By Faith” for 9- to 12-year-olds to educate on NASCAR and detail his faith.

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