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.
View this post on Instagram
So I don’t know how to say any of this but it all needs said. I have never loved or been loved by anyone as much as this amazing woman @thejessicombs she was truly my unicorn and I enjoyed every single minute that I had with her. She was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know. Unfortunately we lost her yesterday in a horrific accident, I was the first one there and trust me we did everything humanly possible to save her!! I’m not ok, but she is right here keeping my going-I made her a promise that if this didn’t go well that I would make sure and do good with it, please help me with that, you are all going to see things on news please believe non of them.. we the family have drafted a release and it will come out today with more proper info, but I was just woke up by the media tracking me down and I need everyone of her true friends to do what she would want “take a deep breath, relax” and do good things with this. Please donate to nothing, I know there will be people try, we are finishing the documentary as she wished and the world will know the truth and her foundation will use those funds to do amazing things in this world and make her legacy live on properly. In the coming days her family and I will get the proper channels put together that you can then donate to that foundation but until you hear it from me wait please-I don’t want some asshole profiting off this (all ready had one try to sell us a video)… . . Love you all and thank you all for being such amazing friends to her, she dedicated her life to helping support others dreams and I promise I will continue that. #doitforjessi #myjessi
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.