De Phillippi Quickest in Friday Star Mazda practice

 at Lucas Oil Raceway

Connor De Phillippi, winner of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear 'Night Before the 500' event last year at Lucas Oil Raceway, again showed his strength on ovals, turning the quickest time in tonight's two-hour night practice session.

While just a tick slower than his lap record of 19.999-sec., set in qualifying for the 2011 race, his quick lap this evening, a 20.131 in his #2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda, set him 0.151-sec. clear of 2nd-quick Sage Karam who turned a 20.282 in the #88 Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda.  Karam, the 2011 Star Mazda 'Rookie of the Year,' won two of the three ovals on the schedule last season.

Rounding out the top five, all of whom showed similar speed in the official series full-day test on May 5, were Zach Veach, 3rd quick with a 20.303 in the #77 Andretti Autosport / K12.com / Zakoski Data Backup Mazda, Gustavo Menezes 4th with a 20.408 in the #83 Team Pelfrey / TrueCar.com Mazda and current championship leader and 2-race winner Jack Hawksworth with a 20.450 in the #82 Team Pelfrey / TORGOEN Swiss Watches / EXA Networks Mazda. 

The top-10 cars in the 16-car field were all within one second of each other, a reasonable indicator that tomorrow night's Night Before the 500 is going to be a crowd-on-its-feet, wheel-to-wheel affair.

This evening's test was relatively free of drama... but only relatively.  The biggest incident of the evening came about half-way through when Camilo Schmidt used the right side of his #21 Linares Racing Mazda to try and scrub the Lucas Oil Raceway logo off the turn-3 wall. 

But the quietest, and perhaps most consequential drama of the evening was the non-appearance of Petri Suvanto, winner of the USF2000 event here last year.  The Finnish racer went on to win the USF2000 championship and is competing in the Star Mazda Championship this season with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy.  He turned the quickest lap of the official series test on May 5, but on this particular evening, however, both Suvanto and his #81 Team Pelfrey / Mazda Road to Indy Mazda sat in the pits as mechanics chased 'electrical gremlins.'

"Well, better now than tomorrow," was his realistic take on the situation.  "Of course it would be better if I could have had the practice time, but we have another hour of testing tomorrow before qualifying, and the team always gives me a good car for the race.  I am disappointed, but not concerned."

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