When she had her foot on the pedal there was simply no catching Jessi Combs. Known as “the fastest woman on four wheels”, Combs was one of the best female racers and few matched her level. She held the women’s land speed class record (four wheels) in 2013 and broke her own record in 2016. She died in a tragic accident while attempting to break the women’s land speed record in 2019. In this article, we will take a closer look at the legacy of Jessi Combs who was a professional racer, television personality, and metal fabricator
Jessi Combs was born on the 27th of June 1980 in Rockerville, South Dakota to parents Jamie Combs and Nina Darrington. She grew up in a family that loved exploring and off-roading. Her great-grandmother was Nina DeBow, a jazz pianist who raced Stanley Steamer. When she was two years her family moved to Piedmont, South Dakota where she shared a home with her siblings. Jessi had a passion for speed and machines from a young age. She once said, “I was always the kid who wanted to go faster than everybody else.”
Jessi graduated from Stevens High School in 1998 and moved to Denver, Colorado to pursue a snowboarding career. However, she realized that it was not her true calling and decided to follow her love for cars instead. She enrolled at WyoTech in Wyoming, where she studied collision and refinishing, street rod fabrication, custom fabrication and high-performance powertrain. She graduated at the top of her class with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication. After graduating in 2004, her first professional job came after the WyoTech marketing department hired her and another student, Ben Bright, to build a car from the ground up in six months to debut at the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association’s (SEMA) show. The car was auctioned for charity and Jessi’s career took off from there.
Life as a racer:
After working for Wyo Tech, Jessi’s love for cars and roads only grew and she was soon racing in Grand Prix. As a professional racer, Jessi competed in various events such as SCORE Baja 1000, Ultra 4 King of the Hammers, Rallye Aicha des Gazelles and North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger. She won several trophies and accolades for her performance and courage. In an illustrious career that spanned over half a decade, Jessi managed to win several awards.
Jesse made her racing debut in 2011 at the SCORE Baja 1000 – Class 10 and won second place. On October 9, 2013, Jessi set the women’s 4-wheel land speed record with an official run of 398.954 mph (632 km/h) and a top speed of 440.709 mph (709 km/h). She bettered her own record on September 7, 2016, by achieving a new top speed of 477.59 mph (768.61 km/h). Her first win came in 2014 when Jessi bagged the first position in the Legends Class race of Ultra 4 Stampede. She also managed to win the Ultra 4 King of the Hammers, Ultra 4 National Championship, and Ultra 4 Western Region Serie. The last time Jessi took on the track was in 2017 when she ranked 12th in Ultra 4 King of the Hammers 4400 class.
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:
She 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 attempted to achieve this goal on August 27, 2019, at the Alvord Desert with her jet-powered car. However, she died in a crash due to a mechanical failure of the front wheel that caused her car to lose control and burst into flames. She was on a dry lake bed in the Alvord Desert, Oregon, when the crash occurred. It was later revealed that the front wheel assembly had collapsed when the car was cranked up to the top speed of 522.783 mph (841.338 km/h). Following her death, her family released a statement asking for privacy and prayers.
“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. Surounded 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..”
She was posthumously awarded the female land-speed world record by Guinness World Records in June 2020 with a speed of 522.783 mph (841.338 km/h), which she achieved before her fatal crash at the Alvord Desert. She died, at the age of 39 due to blunt force trauma to the head after her jet-powered car crashed due to a mechanical failure of the front wheel. Her car burst into flames after the crash.
According to her obituary, she 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. She is also remembered by her friends, fans, and colleagues in the racing and television communities. She left behind a legacy of courage, excellence, and passion. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.
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 had a strong social media presence and used it to share her passion for racing, fabrication, and adventure. She had an Instagram account with 220K followers, where she posted photos and videos of her projects, travels, and achievements. She also had a Facebook page with 350K followers, where she posted updates on her events, appearances, and records. She also had a Twitter account with 23.3K followers, where she tweeted about her interests, opinions, and goals.
Jessi Combs also received a lot of support and tributes from her fans and friends on social media after her death. Many people expressed their admiration, condolences, and gratitude for her inspiration and legacy. Some of her former co-stars from Mythbusters also posted their messages of respect and sorrow for her loss3.
Jessi Combs’ social media presence showed her personality, talent, and spirit. She was a woman who lived her life to the fullest and pursued her dreams with courage and passion. She was a role model for many people who wanted to break stereotypes and barriers. She will be remembered as the fastest woman on four wheels and a legend in the racing community.
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