When Lancaster Speedway Street Stock driver Andy Cryan was an young 8 year old lad, he wondered into an autograph session at the Gunnville Rd. race track looking for autographs to be placed on his Mark Martin racing hat. Of the many driver autographs he obtained that night, one was from John Julicher Sr.
Little did Cryan realize that all these years later, he would be enjoying his own successful racing career and accomplishing it while driving for the Julicher family racing team.
Cryan, 29, has enjoyed an amazing eight-win, 2018 breakout season to date at Lancaster including a victory in the Ken Heckler Memorial 51 last Saturday. Cryan is trying to secure the Lancaster Street Stock title. Now that mission has taken on a much deeper meaning.
Julicher Sr., 69, a retired local racing standout and the leader of the Julicher family racing operation, died August 9, following a long illness. Now Cryan is trying to win the title in order to dedicate it to Julicher's memory.
"If I can win the championship this season, it would be for John and his family," Cryan said. "The amount of work that John Sr., and his family did and put into the car this season has been amazing. It would be dedicated to John Sr.
"I grew up going to Lancaster. My dad took me out there. We went out for autograph night each year. I was an 8 year old out there getting autographs from my heroes. I had my Mark Martin hat. I got autographs on it from drivers including John. Who knew that these 20 years later I'd be racing for John. He was one of my boyhood heroes.
"John's deal was basically that he never believed in the phrase, 'rubbing is racing.' He said 'rubbing is not racing.' He liked clean driving."
Cryan, who lives in Hamburg, recalled a special moment he shared with the elder Julicher earlier this season at Lancaster.
"Even though John couldn't do a lot this year physically, he was there," Cryan recalled. "One thing I'll never forget was when I had my first win for him this year, he gave me a big grab on the shoulder and a handshake and I got the big smile from him and he told me "good job." I could tell it meant a lot to him. He was thrilled."
Julicher Sr.'s legacy in the sport will live on. Julicher began his career in 1975 in the Lancaster Street Stocks and in 1980 began a three-year stint in the Modifieds.
Julicher Sr. then joined the Late Model ranks where he would make his lasting mark in the sport. He won at many different tracks. Julicher Sr. is the winningest Late Model driver in Lancaster history recording 66 career feature wins and nine Late Model championships at Lancaster as well as one at Spencer Speedway in 1988.
Julicher Sr. retired as a driver about 11 years ago but he continued his involvement with the family racing team which included his brothers Mike and Joe Julicher and sons John Julicher Jr., and Brad Julicher.
Julicher Sr., was also known as a person who was willing to help anyone in the sport and was regarded as a good husband, father, grandfather and a friend to many in the racing fraternity.
"He was 100 percent a race car driver and a family man," Julicher Jr., said. "He tied it all together. Our whole life was racing. He was a great dad. My dad taught us all the attributes about life through his racing. We learned about life. How to be a good honest person. To try to be the best you can.
"My mom (Carol) was his rock. She put up with a lot of stuff. She attended just about every race he ever ran. It's tough to do that."
Last season, Julicher Sr., came back to run one final race on July 15. It had been over a decade since he last drove a race car. A few days later, he did an interview about that last race with The Buffalo News that ultimately will serve as his legacy as offered in his own words.
"I haven't raced in years," Julicher Sr. said in the column. "We had a drivers' meeting that night and they announced and welcomed me back and all the drivers applauded. The fans seemed to appreciate me too and that means everything.
"It was nice to see all the people. The purse money when I raced was never important whatsoever to me. It's about people. Easily half of my friends come from racing. That's what it's all about."