For 119 of the 120 laps run in the qualifying races for the Daytona 500, it was very quiet night.
The first race was run without a caution flag. Trouble struck on the final lap of the second 60-lap event when six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas, triggering a multi-car accident that included Clint Bowyer's car doing a complete flip before landing back on its wheels.
Kenseth held off Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne in a three-wide battle for the win in the first race.
However, moments after the start of the second race, NASCAR announced that Harvick failed the post-race inspection. The sanctioning body ruled Harvick's car exceeded the split on the track bar.
As a result, Harvick will start in 38th in the 500 instead of fifth as he would if he had been credited with the runner-up finish.
Greg Zipadelli, the vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing, said the track bar on Harvick's car "had more rake in it than allowed."
He said NASCAR changed the rule after "people were coming up with just ridiculous amounts of track bar rake and it was pulling the car down so they came up with rule and you can only have 3 inches of rake.
"It went through (pre-race) inspection that way. It just came back with more than it was supposed to have. So it's disappointing because it knocks the wind out of our sails. But we'll have a few of our cars back there, we'll team up and haul butt to the front."
Hamlin, who won the Sprint Unlimited last Saturday night, held off Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon in the second qualifying race.
Johnson was running side-by-side with Gordon when he suddenly slowed as the front pack came off the fourth turn. Johnson was clipped by Jamie McMurray to trigger the multi-car wreck.
The second race, too, was caution-free until the last lap.
While the late accident completely changed the running order of the second race and determined who did and did not make the 500, rookies Cole Whitt and Alex Bowman were able to race their way into the 500 in the first race.
Whitt came from 17th to 11th, while Bowman vaulted from 19th to 14th.
"This is huge," said a beaming Bowman. "To make the Daytona 500 ... it was crazy. On the white flag, we were 18th or 19th and out of it. It was pretty crazy on that last lap."
In the first race, Harvick waited until the front pack came off the fourth turn on the last lap to try to get around Kenseth. He almost got by Kenseth before Kenseth was able to slip back in front as Kahne made it three wide in the battle for the victory.
In the second race, it was Paul Menard, running seventh, who made the first move as he dived low to try to pull a bunch of cars by the front pack. Menard's move caused Kurt Busch, Gordon and Johnson to make their moves a little before they planned.
Hamlin was able to drop down and block Busch, causing Johnson and Gordon to get side by side.
"That just slowed us all down," Gordon said. "I was able to get by Kurt for second, but it was too late to get by Denny."
With Kahne being moved up to second after Harvick failed inspection, Marcos Ambrose moved to third. They were followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Josh Wise, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, David Gilliland, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.
Menard finished fourth in the second race, with Brian Scott completing the top five. The second five consisted of Trevor Bayne, rookie Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Landon Cassill and Bowyer, who was able to drive his battered car across the finish line.
The drivers that failed to make the 500 starting field were Ryan Truex, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Morgan Shepherd, Eric McClure and Dave Blaney.
After the impressive performance by the Gibbs cars, Kenseth and Hamlin could be regarded as co-favorites for the 500.
However, the team's president, J.D. Gibbs, was quick to point out, "We've had some great cars down here, but it has been since 1993 since we won the 500. It is just really hard to win."
NOTES: Six drivers had to go to a backup car for the two races after being involved in a multi-car accident in the next-to-last practice session Wednesday. They were Brian Vickers, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Dave Blaney, Ryan Truex and Parker Kligerman. Kligerman's car ended on its roof during the accident. "It's the first time I ever flipped over," Kligerman said. "I've never done that before in a race car. I assumed that it would be rougher, but was actually really soft. I saw the whole thing go down. I'm up in the fence kind of floating along and thankfully none of the fans got injured." Kligerman's car hit the front grandstand catch fence at almost the same spot where parts of a car flew through the catch fence during the last-lap crash in last February's Nationwide race. More than 25 fans were injured in that accident. No one was hurt Wednesday. Track spokesman Lenny Santiago said Wednesday "the (new) fence performed the way it was designed to. We replaced one cable and some of the mesh fencing that was affected." The repairs took only an hour and did not delay the final practice session held Wednesday evening.