“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.”
That’s the quote Jessi Combs posted on her Instagram (@thejessicombs) on August 24. If you’re clued into our industry and racing to any degree, you were likely overwhelmed by the tragic news regarding her death during a land speed attempt just ahead of Labor Day weekend.
The 39-year-old racer, fabricator and television personality, also known as the “fastest woman on four wheels,” died on August 27, while attempting to beat her own land speed record using her 52,000-hp jet car in Oregon’s Alvord Desert.
Our own Brendan Baker summed up Jessi’s mentality pretty well, “She knew the risks and paid the ultimate price… Racers race. Racers crave speed and the unknown. They are adventurers of a different kind and we should cherish the fact that they do this just like great artists and scientists, because we learn from them and what they do.”
Like many other drivers and rock stars who died far too young before her, Jessi will be sorely missed in this industry, for many reasons. Combs was much more than a very fast person, however, her appearances on Overhaulin’, All Girls Garage, and even Mythbusters, pale to her accomplishments behind the wheel.
Combs joined the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger team as driver in 2013. Her goal was to pilot the car (built from a decommissioned fighter jet) beyond 512 mph, the record for Fastest Woman on Earth, set in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil.
Jessi was also an accomplished off-road racer, competing in the Baja 1000 and was the first woman to place at a King of Hammers event; in 2016 she had a
1st-place finish at the King of Hammers.
Combs was an impressive force in racing regardless of gender. She was a valuable role model for women in motorsport and hands-on automotive work. We’ve all likely had some sort of connection, encounter or more with Jessi, and it will be those memories we will have to share and keep alive.