A weekend ritual straight out of "American Graffiti" was finally cut short Friday night when Fairfax County police infiltrated a moonlight drag race at the parking lot of a secluded Springfield industrial park, arrested 13 young men and dispersed a large beer-swilling crowd of teen-agers.
The police had known about the illegal Friday night drag racing at the Fullerton Industrial Park for several months, they said. But their efforts to break it up had been frustrated every weekend by the teen-agers, who were armed with police radio scanners and always knew when the officers were coming.
This weekend, however, the racers and their spectators were surprised by three plainclothes officers who had joined the raucous festivities.
According to Sgt. Walter Blakenship, the plainclothesmen pulled up in a rundown sedan, calmly watched a number of races, wrote down the license plates, and then drove off and called headquarters from a pay telephone booth.
At 11 p.m. seven patrol units from the West Springfield, Franconia, and Mason district police stations barricaded the single exit to the park and arrested 13 young men -- ages 17 to 22 -- for illegal racing, driving with suspended licenses, reckless driving and public drinking.
"We were there . . . they were shocked . . . and it was over," Blankenship said, obviously pleased that the young people, who normally cleared out before police could arrive, were finally apprehended.
"They'll all probably be back next week," said one officer at the scene. Some, apparently, were back yesterday morning.
"Yeah, they were back again," said Larry Mosiniak, a salesman for the Crown Supply Co. on Fullerton Road. "They were whizzing around the corner, hoping they would make it . . . tires sreeching. I guess it's a good place if you want to drag."
But the youths have had more than racing on their minds, according to police and Mosiniak.
"They strip cars in front of a repair store on Fullerton, but we haven't had any vandalism here," Mosiniak said. "They apparently gather at a nearby 7-Eleven store and then head on over here," he said.
Lou Satterfield, a night security guard at the park, said he was sick of picking up "empty Cold Duck and beer bottles" after the regular weekend antics.
"Do you know how much money I make? he asked. "The punks . . . I can't afford half the stuff they drink," said the guard who did not want the name of his company disclosed, fearing retaliation from the youths.
"It's really been a problem for the last several months," police spokesman Warren Carmichael said. "They would apparently use their police monitors to tell when our units were being, sent out to break up the gatherings, and they were all cleared out by the time the police arrived."
Carmichael said that a contingent of scruffily dressed police will be there to "judge" the races again next Friday.