Evan Darling, the openly gay NASCAR driver, says he can relate to troubled gay teens considering suicide.

In a 55-second It Gets Better video, the landscaper-turned-race car driver hints at his own troubled youth.

“I had an extremely difficult time in my youth coming out to myself and others, but it definitely gets better,” he says in the video uploaded on Wednesday. (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

“I knew I was attracted to men when I was really young, seven or eight years old,” Darling told On Top Magazine in a telephone interview. “I knew something was different, something was wrong. I thought, 'Oh, it's just a phase.'”

But by the time he turned 14, Darling, 42, had confided his feelings to a friend of the family.

“I was able to talk about it and it really helped me,” he said. “I mean, I think that pretty much saved my life.”

The man who once dreamed about racing cars now says he wants to help other teens struggling with their sexuality. Darling is hoping to drive the circuit promoting The Trevor Project, the California-based non-profit that runs the nation's only 24-hour confidential suicide hotline for gay and questioning youth.

“That resource is very special,” he said. “I was able to talk to someone. If I didn't have that, I don't know what I would have done.”

“Kids are out there and they are brought up in these very conservative environments and they don't have anyone to talk to or any resource where they can privately talk to someone and not have to worry about someone finding out about them when they're not comfortable with that. You know. it's a great resource.”

A sagging economy and few sponsorship deals, however, are threatening to sideline the 2005 SCCA SE Division champion from racing in 2011.

President Barack Obama, rocker Adam Lambert and Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns are among the thousands that have recorded similar encouraging messages to troubled gay teens.