She was a woman of many talents and passions. A metal fabricator, a television personality, a brand representative, and above all, a racer. She was Jessi Combs, the fastest woman on four wheels.
Jessi Combs had a love for speed and adventure since she was a child. She grew up in South Dakota, where she learned to drive and tinker with cars. She pursued her dream of becoming a custom automotive fabricator at WyoTech, where she graduated at the top of her class. She soon landed a job as a co-host of the popular show Xtreme 4×4, where she showcased her skills and charisma. But Jessi Combs was not content with just building cars. She wanted to drive them, and drive them fast. She competed in various racing events, from off-road rallies to drag races. She set a women’s land speed record in 2013, reaching 398 mph in a jet-powered car. She broke her own record in 2016, hitting 440 mph. She was aiming for even higher speeds when tragedy struck in 2019.
Jessi Combs was a legend, an inspiration, and a trailblazer. She lived her life to the fullest, and left behind a legacy of courage and excellence. This is her story.
Jessi Combs, born on June 27, 1980 in Rockerville, South Dakota, inherited a love for speed and machines from her family. Her parents, Jamie Combs and Nina Darrington, enjoyed exploring and off-roading, and her great-grandmother, Nina DeBow, was a jazz pianist who raced Stanley Steamer. Jessi and her siblings moved to Piedmont, South Dakota when she was two years old, where she grew up with a passion for going faster than everyone else.
After graduating from Stevens High School in 1998, Jessi moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue a snowboarding career, but soon realized that it was not her true calling. She decided to follow her love for cars instead and enrolled at WyoTech in Wyoming. There, she studied collision and refinishing, street rod fabrication, custom fabrication and high-performance powertrains. She excelled in her studies and graduated at the top of her class with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication in 2004.
Her first professional job came after the WyoTech marketing department hired her and another student, Ben Bright, to build a car from scratch in six months for the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association’s (SEMA) show. The car was a success and was auctioned for charity, launching Jessi’s career as a car builder and racer.
How Jessi Combs Broke Records and Barriers in the Automotive Industry
Jessi Combs was a professional racer, television personality, and metal fabricator who had a passion for cars and roads. She started her career in 2004 after graduating from WyoTech with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication. She then co-hosted the Spike TV show Xtreme 4×4 for four years and appeared on several other shows related to automobiles.
Besides being a TV star, Jessi was also a successful racer who competed in various events across the world. She made her racing debut in 2011 at the SCORE Baja 1000 – Class 10, where she won second place. She then went on to win many other races, such as the Ultra 4 Stampede, the Ultra 4 King of the Hammers, the Ultra 4 National Championship, and the Ultra 4 Western Region Series. She also participated in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, an off-road rally race for women, and finished first in her category and tenth overall.
Jessi’s most remarkable achievement was setting the women’s four-wheel land speed record in 2013, with an official run of 398.954 mph (632 km/h) and a top speed of 440.709 mph (709 km/h). She broke her own record in 2016, reaching a new top speed of 477.59 mph (768.61 km/h). She was known as “the fastest woman on four wheels”.
Jessi’s last race was in 2017 when she ranked 12th in the Ultra 4 King of the Hammers 4400 class. Sadly, she passed away in 2019, when she crashed her jet-powered car while attempting to beat her land speed record. She was posthumously awarded the female land-speed world record by Guinness World Records in 2020.
Jessi Combs was an inspiration for many people who admired her skills, courage, and personality. She left behind a legacy of excellence and innovation in the automotive industry.
Television and Metal Fabrication
Jessi Combs had a successful television career as a host and a metal fabricator. Here are some highlights of her television career:
She co-hosted the Spike TV show Xtreme 4×4 for more than 90 episodes from 2005 to 2009, where she built and modified various vehicles for off-road adventures.
She appeared on several episodes of Overhaulin’, a show where old and neglected vehicles are restored and customized by a team of experts.
She was a guest host and builder on Mythbusters, a show where popular myths and legends are tested with scientific methods.
She hosted The List: 1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die, a show where she and another host completed various automotive challenges from a list of bucket-list items.
She was one of the hosts of All Girls Garage, a show where three women mechanics worked on different projects involving cars and motorcycles.
She hosted How to Build… Everything, a show where she explained the science and engineering behind various machines and devices.
She was not only a host but also a builder and a metal fabricator who could handle any project with skill and creativity. She was a passionate supporter of increasing female representation in racing and metal fabrication. She co-founded Real Deal Revolution, an organization that aimed to empower women through industrial arts education. She also mentored young girls who wanted to pursue careers in STEM fields.
Accident and Death
Jessi Combs had a dream of breaking the all-time women’s land speed record set by Kitty O’Neil in 1976 with a speed of 512.7 mph (825 km/h). She came close to achieving this goal on August 27, 2019, at the Alvord Desert, Oregon, with her jet-powered car. She reached a top speed of 522.783 mph (841.338 km/h), which was later recognized by Guinness World Records as the female land-speed world record in June 2020. However, tragedy struck when a mechanical failure of the front wheel caused her car to lose control and burst into flames. She died at the age of 39 due to blunt force trauma to the head.
Jessi’s death was mourned by her family, friends, fans, and colleagues in the racing and television communities. Her family released a statement asking for privacy and prayers, and also celebrating her life and achievements. They said,
“Jessi’s bright smile, positivity, and tenacious pursuit of her dreams inspired everyone who met her. Her drive and spirit were infectious, and she served as a role model for young girls and women around the world. Surrounded by her family and friends at the time of her passing, Jessi lived fearlessly and her legacy lives on in the countless lives she touched.”
Jessi is survived by her parents Jamie Combs and Nina Darrington, her siblings Kelly Combs, Austin Darrington, and Danielle Theis, and two stepsiblings, Rebekah Hall and Arielle Hall.
Jessi Combs had a net worth of $1 million at the time of her death in 2019. She earned her income from her multiple professions as a racer, fabricator, TV personality, and businesswoman. She was involved in several racing events, TV shows, and enterprises that gave her a good reputation and splendid earning amount.
Jessi Combs had a rumored marriage with Ian Johnson, her co-host on the reality show Xtreme 4×4. They did not have any kids and later divorced. She then dated Terry Madden, who was devastated by her death. He posted several tributes to her on Instagram, recalling their happy moments together. He posted a video montage of their time together, along with a heartfelt caption. He expressed his love and gratitude for her and said he was devastated by the loss. He also thanked their friends and fans for their support and prayers. He said he was proud of her achievements and her legacy. He ended the post by saying he will always love her and miss her.
Jessi Combs was also known for her athletic build and her racing outfits. She had a height of 5 ft 7 in or 170 cm and a billed weight of 55 kg or 121 lbs. Her body measurement was 31-24-33 inches. She had blonde hair and blue eyes.
Social Media Presence
Jessi Combs was a passionate racer, fabricator, and adventurer who shared her life with her fans on social media. She had a large following on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, where she posted about her projects, travels, achievements, events, appearances, records, interests, opinions, and goals. She had an Instagram account with 220K followers, a Facebook page with 350K followers, and a Twitter account with 23.3K followers.
She inspired many people with her personality, talent, and spirit. After her tragic death, she received an outpouring of support and tributes from her friends, fans, and former co-stars from Mythbusters. They expressed their admiration, condolences, and gratitude for her legacy. Jessi Combs will be remembered as a role model who broke stereotypes and barriers, and as a legend who became the fastest woman on four wheels.
June 27, 1980
Rockerville, South Dakota, United States
August 27, 2019
Alvord Desert, Oregon
39 years old
Jamie Combs, Nina Darrington
Kelly Combs, Austin Darrington, and Danielle Theis