HARRISBURG, N.C. — When AJ Allmendinger hits the golf course, it’s just him, the range and a few balls.
There’s no team, no pit crew, no car that may or may not run as planned.
In a world of racing that moves quite quickly, Allmendinger embraces that simplicity.
“We live in a sport where there’s race cars, there’s pit stops, there’s so many variables that can go right or wrong and it’s not solely based on you,” Allmendinger told NASCAR.com from the JTG Daughterty Racing shop. “As a team — and I think people kind of forget that this is one of the biggest team sports that there is. You see the race cars on Sunday and just the drivers and the pit crews and think, oh it’s still on them … but it’s a huge team sport.
“So, with golf, I love the mental side of it, that it’s just you. The only way you’re going to get better is to go out and put the work in. There’s no substitute for that — you can’t blame anybody else out there.”
Allmendinger began golfing around eight years ago when a friend at a former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team encouraged him to hit the links. At first, he resisted. But after a trip to the course, he became enamored with the sport, and has really gotten into it the past three years.
Now, that competitive streak seen on race tracks around the country every weekend during the season has extended to the greens.
“I’m hugely competitive with just myself,” the 35-year-old admitted. “And that’s what it’s all about. Whether it’s on the race track or whatever I’m doing, I’m competitive with myself. You want to beat the other competitors that you’re around or playing with on the golf course, but in the end, for me it’s all about setting my goals and setting where I think I should be at and go out there and try to achieve that.”
But “once a racer, always a racer” rings true here, too — even in a mentally captivating game like golf. For drivers, putting aside problems at the shop, upcoming races and recent events on track is challenging, even for a few moments.
Like golf, racing drains a great deal of mental stamina.
“I love to say that I get my mind off of racing but I really don’t because racing never really truly leaves,” Allmendinger said. “Maybe I can put it in the back of my brain, but it’s always there. But it’s nice to be able to go out there and just try to get away from it for a little bit. Or work on something else to try to get better.
“That’s something that, whether it’s good or bad, because I punish myself sometimes, but it’s always trying to get better at whatever I’m doing. So, that’s always the goal.”
His next goal? To get his JTG Daugherty Racing teammate Chris Buescher to play a few rounds with him.
“I’m trying to — he’s more of, wants to go play in the mud, go buggy-riding, (has) gotta go fishing,” Allmendinger said with a grin. “He’s got that personality where he can kind of just sit back and relax and I’m always having to go and do something.
“I’ve got time, though — I’ll work on it. I’ll wear him down slowly.”