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Jessi Combs Dies in Land-Speed Racing Accident

Words: Andreanna Ditton      Image: Jessi Combs Facebook Page

Racing is never risk-free, and those who love it know what they’re getting into. That never lessens the tragedy when the sport claims someone, though, and Jessi Combs is no exception.

Known as the “Fastest Woman on Four Wheels” for her record-setting runs in jet cars, Combs, 36, set out to the Alvord Desert on August 27th, hoping to break another record in her North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger jet car. She’d first set a record of 398 mph in in 2013, and had been attempting to break it since.  Instead, she suffered a fatal crash.

Combs was not only beloved amongst those in the race community, but was a face of the sport for more casual viewers and fans.  A welder, builder and fabricator as well as a driver, she was an integral part of all aspects of racing and performance.

She appeared on Xtreme 4×4 for four years before an accident to her spinal cord and the subsequent recovery lead her to move on to new pursuits.  She continued to appear on shows like 2 Guys Garage, TruckU and others before taking over for Kari Byron as a host and builder on the 7th season of Mythbusters. This experience helped her develop her own voice and hosting abilities, which she brought to All Girls Garage and Overhaulin on Velocity Network.

Combs was driven — as a builder, a television personality and an educator. More than anything, though, she was a racer. Competing not only in land-speed racing but in off-roading as well, she raced in the Ultra4’s King of the Hammers, taking home a Spec Class win in 2014, completing the Baja 1000 and racing in the Aicha des Gazelles rally race. In 2013, she joined  the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger jet car team as a driver, completing a record pass. Last year, she’d attempted another record in the vehicle, hitting 483.227 mph before mechanical issues halted the run. She was doing another pass at the record yesterday when the accident occurred.

Outpourings of support and sorrow have already started to flow from the race and enthusiast community. Combs was well-known and well-loved for her ambition, strength, talent and presence. She broke literal barriers, both for women in the sport, and for the perception of what was possible as a racer in general.

Her own Twitter post, right before the accident, confirmed that while Combs knew the risks of her chosen passion, she also understood the rewards: “It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fire… those who are willing, are those who achieve great things. . . People say I’m crazy. I say thank you :) .”

Team member Terry Madden confirmed the accident yesterday, and posted a tribute to Combs on his Instagram.



A post shared by Terry L. Madden (@terry_madden) on