Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer always knew that despite losing much of his left leg in combat he could win races if he got the chance.
That came Saturday when Dwyer teamed with Tom Long to win the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
"Saying I'm excited is a major understatement," Dwyer told The Associated Press by phone shortly after the victory. "I am ecstatic about this."
Dwyer drove the first 22 laps and was 25th in the 32-car field before turning the No. 27 Mazda MX-5 over to Long for the rest of the way. Long took the lead for good five laps from the end and went on to a nearly 20-second victory.
Dwyer served with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was injured in Iraq in 2007 when he took shrapnel on the left side of his body while a turret gunner of a Humvee that was hit by a roadside bomb. Dwyer recovered and returned to civilian life when a major he had worked with asked him to join a special team headed to Afghanistan. Dwyer re-enlisted and was searching a compound in Sangin Province when he stepped on an explosive that sheared off his left leg above the knee.
The blast also damaged his right leg and right arm, to the point where Dwyer says he has little feeling in that hand.
Dwyer, like other military personnel with catastrophic injuries, called May 22, 2011, his "Alive Day."
"I know exactly what it means to myself and my fellow service member," he said. Four other Marines were injured in that explosion.
The 32-year-old Dwyer returned home for rehabilitation. He was fitted with a prosthesis for the leg and soon after began to think about fulfilling his need for speed. He began racing vintage sports cars and was encouraged by friends and family members to market his skills to other circuits.