The paddock at Lime Rock Park is full of wheels, some parked, some getting ready to go, but there was only one wheelchair there Thursday afternoon. In it sat a man who would give anything to be behind a wheel, Sgt. Liam Dwyer.
Last year, he paced the Connecticut Autocross and Rally Team in its time trials at Lime Rock, at 60 seconds flat. This year, he's racing only in spirit.
"It's killing me not to be driving," he said.
An IED almost killed him in Afghanistan in May. It cost Dwyer his left leg and damaged his right leg and arm. The Marine Corps gave him his second Purple Heart, in June. Visiting Lime Rock this week, a driving instructor got a dose of Dwyer's dedication.
"He said,'No, you're not gonna drive manual transmissions,'" Dwyer recalled. "But I looked him dead in the eye and said, 'No, you're wrong, I'm gonna do it.' Whether it takes me a year, ten years, I'm gonna figure it out and I'm gonna do it," Dwyer said.
People who work at Lime Rock told him there's a prosthetic leg available that can attach to a clutch pedal. Dwyer will eventually get a prosthetic left leg, but he needs more operations.
For now, his 350Z is in storage.
"Liam's been great competition up here," said Nick Fandacone. "And we miss him out here."
The Autocross team has raised several thousand dollars to help Dwyer during his recovery.
"He makes it easy for us," said Kevin Fitzmaurice. "He didn't have to do what he did. He was already wounded once in Iraq. He went back again. And he's like an everyday hero.
Dwyer really just wants to be an everyday guy again. His immediate goals are simple.
"Just being out of the chair, getting up, walking around...oh yeah, getting married, I guess, too," he said.