Woody Pitkat Steps Away From Hartwell Motorsports Thompson Ride; Jake Johnson Steps In

Woody Pitkat (left) and Jake Johnson (right) (Photos: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

In the Thompson Speedway Late Model division, the Hartwell Motorsports No. 91 ride has become a fixture in the top-five in events at the historic facility over the last few seasons. 

In 2023 the team will be back on track chasing a championship at Thompson, but it will be a new driver behind the wheel for the organization. 

Woody Pitkat, who has driven full-time for the team since 2017, will step away from the ride for the 2023 season. 

“We thank Woody, [his wife] Erica and their family for their dedication to the team over the years,” team owner Jeff Hartwell said. “Everyone at Hartwell Motorsports wishes the Pitkat family the best and a great upcoming season. It’s been a great run, one we will never forget, and we’d never rule out a guest appearance a time or two.” 

Pitkat had seven wins and 21 top-fives over the last six seasons at Thompson driving for the Hartwell team. He finished third in points in 2022 in the division with one win, three top-five’s and five top-10’s in five starts. 

“I’ve had a good relationship with those guys,” Pitkat said. “Back when I started racing Late Models there in the early 2000’s I was racing against Jeff. It was always cool to be able to have raced for him and have raced against him. They’re a great group of guys that have been together forever. It’s just getting to a point where the kids are growing up and it gets to be hard to trying to get there. It just gets to be too much.” 

Pitkat has long been a local driver who has run regularly each year in both Modified and full-bodied divisions. And the driver who replace him with Hartwell Motorsports is similar in that regard. 

Twenty-year old Jake Johnson established himself as a standout in Late Models and Pro Stocks as a teenager and last year showed himself to be ready to be a frontrunner in a Modified action. 

“He’s an upcoming guy around here and we’re really excited to have the opportunity to put him in a car,” Hartwell said. “It’s a really good fit for us.” 

Johnson won the prestigious Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. in 2020. Last year he scored his first Tour Type Modified victory with the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H. 

“I’m very excited to run the Late Model at Thompson,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely going to have a busy year. But more seat time is better. They’re a fun team. And I’m always excited to go racing at Thompson. It’s one of my favorite race tracks.” 

Hartwell will also run Johnson in American-Canadian Tour events at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway on March 17 and March 18 and at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on April 15. 

Johnson ran full-time with the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series in 2022 and also made six starts on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Johnson is expected to run 14 of 19 events on the Whelen Modified Tour for Boehler Racing Enterprises in 2023 along with running full-time in the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series with his family operated team. He will also run the NAPA Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 30 with his family team.  

“By definition I’d call myself a Late Model guy or a Pro Stock guy, but I think it all makes you better,” Johnson said. “I love going from the Modified to the Late Model, I’ll do whatever. I think the more you can do the better you’re going to be.” 


  1. There comes a time when, although you love it, racing gets in the way of life. This probably wasn’t an easy decision for Woody, but I applaud him for doing the right thing. Kids grow up so fast and as they age the time spent with them becomes precious. Hope everything works out for everyone involved.

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