You could have spent every day of this calendar year riding New Jersey's Kingda Ka — at 456 feet tall, reputed to be the world's tallest roller coaster.
Even so, your 2009 would not have featured the extreme ups and downs that Helio Castroneves has had this year.
"It's been crazy," Castroneves said last week. "Definitely, a roller-coaster ride."
On Saturday night, Castroneves and his Indy Racing League competitors will be at Kentucky Speedway for the 10th running of the race now known as The Meijer 300 Presented By Red Baron and Edy's.
No one who takes the green flag in Sparta is apt to be as appreciative of the chance to do so as 34-year-old Castroneves.
For six weeks earlier this year, the auto racing star — the 2007 Dancing With The Stars champion — literally had his life as he knew it at risk.
Along with his sister/business manager (Katiucia) and an attorney, the ebullient Brazilian went to trial after being accused by the IRS of having evaded some $2.3 million in U.S. federal taxes.
The government's claim was that Castroneves was using a Panamanian company to dodge the American tax man on part of his income, including $5 million in licensing money from his employer, Penske Racing.
The most visible driver in the Indy Racing League (non-Danica division) was staring at six years in prison.
"It was a very, very scary thing to go through," says a man who makes his living driving 220 mph.
On April 17 in a federal courthouse in Miami, Castroneves faced his moment of judgment.
The verdict: not guilty on six counts of tax evasion. The jury hung on a seventh count of conspiracy. (The government subsequently dismissed that charge.)
"I got a fair trial, and the truth was able to come out," Castroneves said.
The driver literally left the courthouse in Florida and flew to California to resume his racing career that weekend in the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Moments after landing in California, Castroneves asked Penske Racing President Tim Cindric for his race suit.
"He said he might sleep in it," Cindric recalls.
Thirty-seven days after his acquittal, Castroneves won the crown jewel of his sport, the Indianapolis 500.
Castroneves wept repeatedly after taking Indy for the third time in his career. In winning, he also gave the 15th Indy victory to the car owner, Roger Penske, who stuck with him through the tax tumult.
"Anytime you win Indy, it's huge," said Castroneves, whose other victories came in 2001 and '02. "But after the trial and everything, this time was very emotional."
Those who work most closely with Castroneves say that since the jury found him innocent, they've seen someone with a new appreciation of the life he gets to live.
"The small things in life don't bother him nearly as much as they used to," said Cindric, who makes the pit calls for Castroneves on race days.
"In the past, sometimes what people might say, the fans, the media, something negative, it might bother him. Now, I think his perspective has changed in a way that he knows to laugh off the small stuff."
Castroneves hasn't won in seven prior starts at Kentucky but will be looking to improve on a second-place finish last year.
Even though he missed this season's first race due to his trial, Castroneves nevertheless is fourth in the IndyCar Series points standings. In 10 races, he has five Top 5's and a win at Texas to go with the Indy 500 victory.
Along the way, the normally positive fan reaction to Castroneves from before his tussle with the IRS has not changed much since.
"You'll have the occasional fan yell, 'Hey, Helio, what about your taxes?' He just laughs about it," says Cindric. "But the (positive) response he received this year in Indianapolis, it doesn't compare to anything I've seen before."
With everything Castroneves has been through, he says he is still processing how he feels toward what's gone on in 2009.
"Obviously, I have some scars," he said. "Everyone says, 'but you won Indy,' which was great, but it doesn't make everything go away. When you go through the situation I went through for six months, it takes some time to heal and feel normal again in your life."
There has been at least one other important outcome from Castroneves having gone to trial over how his business was structured.
A determination to never again have another such roller-coaster ride of a year.
Says Cindric: "Helio is now going to the nth degree to make sure nothing about his life is ever questioned again."