Linda Emmick, a pioneering woman and leading figure in karting motor sports, died June 5 of a stroke, her family said. She was 69.
An adrenaline junkie who enjoyed zip lining and sky diving as well as driving more than 100 mph in small, open cars, Mrs. Emmick blazed a trail in a racing community dominated by men. She was a champion driver, businesswoman and avid promoter of karting, a family-friendly activity and early training ground for many NASCAR and Indy champions.
In 1965, she and her husband, Gary, a seven-time national karting champion, opened a karting business in Mountain View. They moved in 1972 to Sacramento, where Emmick Enterprises became one of the top makers of kart engines and chassis in the sport. She ran the business with her son, Ron, after her husband died in 1985.
"She and her family are legends in the sport," said David Cole, managing editor of ekartingnews.com. "She was definitely a pioneer."
Mrs. Emmick traveled and competed on the karting circuit with her husband. She was the first woman to win both national and world titles in the sport, in Camden, N.J., in 1969 and Hong Kong in 1971, her son said.
"Can you imagine a woman back in the early '70s being up front in motor sports or any kind of race car?" said Ron Emmick, a karting and auto racing champion. "She was dedicated to the sport."
Born June 24, 1943, in Mitchell, S.D., Linda Kay Spears moved with her family to Palo Alto. She graduated from Palo Alto High School, where she met Gary Emmick. They married in 1961 and had two children.
"She was a wonderful mother, always pushing us to excel in school and everything we did," her son said. "I was into racing and my sister was into horse riding, and she supported us all the way."
Mrs. Emmick was a board member of the International Kart Federation and was active in the World Karting Association for many years. She officiated at major races, including including IKF Road Race Grand Nationals, according to the World Karting Association website.
Her family sold their karting business about four years ago, her son said.
"Even later in her career, when she was semi-retired, she was still into racing," Ron Emmick said.
"When people would come into the shop, she'd jump out on the track and race and wind up beating them. I had to tell her, 'Mom, you have to stop beating them. They're our customers.' "
Mrs. Emmick was predeceased by her daughter, Ronda Emmick Gwin, in 2010. She is survived by her son, Ron of Rancho Cordova; sister, Judy Moritz of Gilroy; brother, Richard Spears of Palo Alto; and four grandchildren.
A viewing is set for 4 to 8 p.m. today at Sierra View Funeral Home, 6201 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael. A funeral is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Fair Oaks Cemetery, 7780 Olive St., Fair Oaks.
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.