The 1953 Indianapolis 500 will long be remembered as one of the hottest races on record. Well before the event reached the halfway point, the withering heat took its toll on fans, officials, and participants alike.

Sadly, driver Carl Scarborough exited his car on the 70th lap, lapsed into unconsciousness, and did not survive the day. While others also wilted in the midday sun, Bill Vukovich would not be denied.

The previous year he had victory in hand when a steering failure thwarted him on the 192nd lap. This time, there were no unpleasant surprises.

After he enjoyed a cool drink of milk in victory lane, Vuky was asked how he survived the elements. His answer was characteristically direct.

“You think this was hot?” Vukovich asked, with a touch of incredulousness. “You ought to try driving a tractor in Fresno in July.”

D.J. Netto knows all about driving tractors in the California sun, although his CLASS Jaguar Corn Harvester probably is a lot more comfortable than the pieces Bill wrestled in his day.

Nonetheless, Netto understands, as did Vukovich, that the agriculture business – no matter how much technology changes – is still a labor-intensive enterprise.

At this point in his life, when it comes to his primary occupation, Netto is all in. When it comes to racing, it is more of the same.

While he no longer harbors a desire to race for a living, once the helmet goes on, the drive to win returns in a heartbeat.

Netto was born into a racing family. His father, Frank Netto, drove non-winged sprint cars, while his uncle Jerry raced IMCA modifieds. Together the men also tested the pavement in the Southwest Tour Truck Series.

With clear gratitude, he can look back and recognize that the conditions under which Frank and Jerry raced were entirely different than those he enjoys today.

“Compared to them,” said D.J. Netto, “I have been really fortunate to be able to race in this great equipment and run some real cool races. They didn’t have the funds to race, and have the same opportunities they have given me.

“They were working for other people, and trying to start this company.”

The company is a custom harvesting operation that has blossomed via good old-fashioned sweat equity. As he describes what his father and uncle accomplished, it is easy to understand his admiration for them.

“They started with $2,000,” Netto recalled, “and used that to buy their first silage truck. It just escalated from there.”

Now known as Netto Ag Inc., the family owns approximately 20 top-of-the-line harvesters, and around 70 big trucks. It’s no longer just a mom and pop operation.

On top of it all, when they are through tending to customers, the family also farms 2,000 acres of their own.

As he matured, Netto realized that it was the success of the business that allowed him to race, and his ability to stick with it was also a function of his extended family’s love of the sport.

Netto
D.J. Netto sits in his car prior to a sprint car race in his home state of California. (Joe Shivak photo)

Netto started racing micro-sprints at the age of 12 at Plaza Park Speedway in Visalia, Calif. If you check the career trajectory of many of today’s top sprint car drivers who hail from Central California, this track has been a common stomping ground.

He took to racing quickly, as did his brother Garrett, who D.J. noted “was a really good micro racer. He won at Visalia, and if you can win there, you are pretty good.”

By the time D.J. was 16, the sprint cars beckoned. Luckily, one place to cut his teeth was Keller Auto Speedway, close to home.

He got a taste of 360 racing late in the 2011 season and showed plenty of promise. The following year he raced the Rebel Cup series, with events primarily held at Keller, and was consistent enough to take the series title over Carson Macedo.

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