A three-time champion of the Daytona 500 was highly complimentary of the race’s newest champion this week.

Denny Hamlin congratulated and praised William Byron on his podcast Actions Detrimental, saying the victory was well earned. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who won at Daytona in 2016, 2019 and 2020, also told Byron it was his time to bask in the glory of winning the sport’s biggest race.

“He races so wise beyond his years, he really does,” Hamlin said. “I admire William, I admire his work ethic, who he is as a person.”

The victory was the 11th of Byron’s career in his seventh season at the Cup Series level. Hamlin is a series veteran and is considered a favorite when it comes to the superspeedway events. In his praise, Hamlin compared Byron to a former Hendrick Motorsports driver against whom he spent many years racing.

“I think of him (Byron) a lot like Jimmie Johnson in the sense of he just gets results; he gets a lot of results, and he’s not super flashy about it,” Hamlin said. “He’s a really good person outside the race car as he is in the race car. He always races fair with everyone. Have we ever heard William Byron getting into or wrecking someone?”

Hamlin and Byr on have gone toe-to-toe over the years. In the fall race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2022, Byron spun Hamlin under caution. The two later hashed things out – on Hamlin’s podcast – and have moved on with no ill feelings. It’s why Hamlin didn’t even bring it up when making his statement about not hearing about Byron having issues with fellow drivers.

“I’ve got tremendous respect for him as a driver,” Hamlin said. “He’s going to be a very deserving and good Daytona 500 champion for us over the next 12 months.”

The 43-year-old Hamlin knows that Byron, who is 26, has many more years ahead of him with the potential to keep adding to his resume. Something Hamlin went into when asked Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway about all the praise he sent Byron’s way. It’s the progression of Byron through the NASCAR ranks in a short time and his development as a driver that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hamlin.

“I think we saw it in the Truck Series to Xfinity Series, he always was winning,” Hamlin said. “And again, he’s always had really great equipment, but to have a lot of his teammates as well. He’s just continually, in my mind, gotten better and better. Then, to be , he’s got such a long future ahead.

“He’s a guy that we could be talking about in that 60 (to) 70-win category if he keeps going on this pace. He’s got the potential.”