Jessi Combs, a professional racer and TV personality known as the “fastest woman on four wheels,” died in a crash on Tuesday, August 27. She died while attempting to break her own four-wheel land speed record, as part of the North American Eagle Project in the Alvord Desert, southeast Oregon.
The North American Eagle Project was started in 1998 by Ed Shadle and Keith Zanghi. The goal was breaking the World Land Speed Record of 763 mph using land cars built from jet fighter fuselage.
The Harney County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that she died on Tuesday, August 27, at the age of 39, after crashing her jet car at around 4 p.m. local time.
“It is with extreme grief, and in celebration of her life that her family and close friends share that race car driver, and TV personality Jessi Combs, passed away in a fatal crash, as she pursued setting a land speed record in the North American Eagle on August 27, 2019, on a dry lake bed in Oregon,” the statement released yesterday by her family read.
Watch Combs set her first land speed record in 2013
The video below shows Jessi Combs setting her first women’s land speed record on October 9, 2013. She piloted a jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Land Speed Challenger vehicle to a speed of 398 mph at the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon.
She also reached 483.227 mph in a jet-powered car in October 2018. However, the speed did not qualify as an official record because she ended the run prematurely due to mechanical issues. The rules require two back-to-back runs for an official speed record, but Combs did only a single run.
Her ultimate goal was to exceed the record of 512.710 mph set by Kitty O’Neil in 1976 in a three-wheeled hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket car.
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 ;)
.#fastestwomanonearth #almost #fasterthanfast #jetcar #afterburner #landpsee… https://t.co/IrnCQQWMGJ pic.twitter.com/A5NZ6Luq0u
— Jessi Combs (@TheJessiCombs) August 24, 2019
Combs also competed in several other races, including Ultra4’s King of the Hammers, Baja 1000, and Rallye Aicha des Gazelles. She was the first woman to compete in The Race of Gentlemen. She competed in a twin-engine 1913 Ford Model T.
Besides her speed records, Combs was also a TV personality.
She hosted several TV shows, including Xtreme 4X4 on Spike TV (2005-2009). She also appeared on Mythbusters, Science Channel’s How to Build… Everything, The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die, Overhaulin’, and All Girls Garage.
Adam Savage, the former co-host of Mythbusters, was one of several who paid tribute on Twitter.
I’m so so sad, Jessi Combs has been killed in a crash. She was a brilliant & too-notch builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator, & strove everyday to encourage others by her prodigious example. She was also a colleague, and we are lesser for her absence.
— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) August 28, 2019
Valerie Thompson, the first woman to exceed 300 mph on a two-wheeled vehicle, also paid tribute. Thompson is known as the “fastest woman on two wheels.”
It's with a heavy heart that I pass along the news that Jessi Combs passed away yesterday while attempting to break a land speed record. I also had the chance to attempt this record but it wasn't my turn…this hits home for me. Godspeed, Jessi Combs. pic.twitter.com/bfE2N9Cy2k
— Valerie Thompson (@ValerieThompson) August 28, 2019
Her team member Terry Madden also paid tribute on Instagram.
Jessi Combs was born in Black Hills of Rapid City, South Dakota, on July 27, 1980. Her parents were Jamie Combs and Nina Darrington. Her siblings were Kelly Combs, Austin Darrington, Danielle Theis, Rebeka Hall, and Arielle Hall.
She attended Stevens High School and graduated from Wyotech in 2004.