Bayne, others big on giving back

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- You can hear the pure joy in Trevor Bayne's voice.

It has nothing to do with racing.

It has everything to do with helping.

We were inundated with negativity from the behavior of the Busch brothers over the last few weeks of the Sprint Cup season. We saw the ugly side of drivers who don't know how to control their competitive nature.

'Tis the season to remember there is a lot of good out there, too. Bayne is a prime example. He and Carl Edwards spent much of last week in Mexico working with orphans as part of Back2Back Ministries.

They played games. They played music. They even played Santa Claus.

But mostly, they made a difference.

Other drivers are doing the same thing. Through a Christmas concert, Kevin Harvick helped raise more than $50,000 that his foundation will use to provide presents for underprivileged children. Jeff Gordon visited hospitals in Africa, where his foundation has donated $1.5 million toward fighting childhood cancer.

Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a part of a USO initiative to help spread holiday cheer for military members and their families.

The list goes on and on. And yes, even Kurt and Kyle Busch are charitable, particularly during the holidays.

But for the 20-year-old Bayne, this is more than being charitable and doing good. It is a God thing. He expresses his Christian beliefs openly and frequently on a daily basis, whether it's in a public interview, to a stranger on the street or on Twitter.

He does this perhaps more than any other driver.

You could call the reigning Daytona 500 champion NASCAR's version of Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback who seems to be all over the popular media.

"On a much smaller scale," Bayne says with a laugh over the phone on his final day in Mexico.

Bayne's faith isn't a major subject of debate on radio and television talk shows like it has been for Tebow. People aren't calling for Bayne to tone down the way he expresses his beliefs like some have with Tebow.

"I wish he'd just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates," former Denver quarterback Jake Plummer said of Tebow on a Phoenix radio station. "I think when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ, then I think I'll like him a little better."

Bayne doesn't hear such talk from peers even though he puts his faith out there just as much as Tebow, whether it's going on mission trips, to Bible studies with fellow drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Logano or thanking God on Twitter.

He understands athletes who share or express their Christian beliefs open themselves to ridicule -- as well as praise -- and doesn't mind the risk.

He said he really doesn't consider it a risk.

"Obviously, this thing with Tebow is a media-driven thing," says Bayne, who talked with the former University of Florida star shortly after winning the Daytona 500 and again at the ESPY Awards. "A lot of people love him and a lot of people hate him. That's what [the Bible] says will happen. It says people won't believe what we believe.

"But it's important for them to know why we believe, not just put it out there so we can be ridiculed. It has to be true. That's what's so cool about Tebow. It doesn't change. That's the kind of person I want to be."

Not all athletes, even those with strong Christian beliefs, express themselves like Bayne and Tebow. They keep their religion private, or simply are afraid to share it for fear of the criticism and jokes -- a la Tebow being called the "Mile High Messiah."

Maybe if Bayne were to win the Cup title or make the Chase in 2012 people will start calling him "Bible Belt Bayne" or "Trinity Trevor."

Or maybe they'll just let Bayne be Bayne, just as they let Gordon be Gordon and Harvick be Harvick.

We can only hope.

"You want to live by example, which is what's so good about Tebow, and what I try to be," says Bayne, who is planning to drive a part-time Cup schedule for the Wood Brothers again in '12. "You try to be real. People can see that in you and they say, 'How can [they] be going through this and that and still have a smile on their face?'"

That certainly sounds better than the angry scowl we saw on Kurt Busch's face after his transmission blew in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and he delivered a profanity-laced tirade to ESPN's Jerry Punch.

The worst moment we saw from Bayne this past season came after he abandoned Gordon on the final lap at Talladega to push fellow Ford teammate Matt Kenseth.

And Bayne felt overly guilty for that.

"This sport has a lot of pressure that comes with it," Bayne says when asked how he views reactions such as Kurt Busch's. "It can push people into things they normally wouldn't do or say. We just have to understand that on our bad days there are people looking up to us, too."

You again can hear the pure joy in Bayne's voice just as you could feel it after he won the Daytona 500 and tweeted, "Say what! I'm blown away at how amazing God's plan is!"

If that's what it's like to be Tebowed, Bayne wants more of it. He wants people to know the peace he felt after winning the 500 is no different than the peace he felt when sitting in a hospital for five weeks with an undiagnosed condition that threatened to end his career.

"I don't want to go through stages where I'm up and down," Bayne says. "Obviously, we'll have dry spells and good days. If we always know God is just as close to us whether we're on top of the mountain or in a rut, it'll help us be a lot more consistent."

Whether you agree or not, you have to respect Bayne for sticking to what he believes and being fearless enough to share it with others.

In a sport where negativity often reigns because fans -- and even reporters -- often feed off controversy, we occasionally need to recognize that there are drivers out there doing good things. That there are genuinely good people out there, and that it's OK to be good.

"It's cool to get to serve," Bayne says. "That's my reason for outreach. That's my reason for coming [to Mexico]. We just try to take care of the orphans, love them and show them people care about them and that Jesus loves them for who they are."

And you can hear the pure joy in Bayne's voice.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.