Jessi Combs, racer and TV personality, killed in crash during speed-record try

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Jessi Combs approaches the car before her speed-record attempt
Jessi Combs approaches the car before her speed-record attempt | Instagram photo

Jessi Combs, the famous racer and TV personality known as the “fastest woman on four wheels,” was killed Tuesday in a crash while attempting to break her own speed record in her jet-powered streamliner.

Combs was driving on a dry lake bed in the Alvord Desert in southeastern Oregon when the car went out of control at high speed and crashed. She was 39.

A professional race driver, car builder and metal fabricator, Combs was a legend in both motorsports and on automotive television, where she served as a host and technical expert on a number of programs, including All Girls Garage, Overhaulin’, Two Guys Garage and Xtreme 4×4, as well as appearing in a season of Mythbusters.

Coombs was regular on autoomotive TV
Combs was regular on automotive TV | Velocity photo

She earned her title of “fastest woman on four wheels” in 2013 when she set a record of 398 mph in a jet-powered streamliner, the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger.  Last year, she reached an unofficial 483.227 mph, although mechanical trouble ended her run before she could make a second pass in the opposite direction to make the record official.

Her death was confirmed in an Instagram post by teammate Terry Madden, and her family issued a statement today.

“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, where she was pursuing a land speed record in the North American Eagle on August, 27th 2019 on a dry lake bed in Oregon,” the family statement says. “The details of the crash have not been released at this time.”

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Jessi Combs was an accomplished metal fabricator and welder
Jessi Combs was an accomplished metal fabricator and welder | Velocity photo

Combs was a towering figure in the male-dominated world of auto racing and car building, and was an accomplished metal fabricator and welder, even designing her own line of welding clothing and gear for women.

As well as vying for speed records, Combs was active in a number of racing competitions, such as Ultra4’s King of the Hammers; the Baja 1000, where she had a podium finish; and in the all-women rally race Rallye Aicha des Gazelles.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

17 COMMENTS

    • Tell her family, "D" from "D" Classic Cars/Street Rods feels their pain, and prays for God to give them comfort at this critical time! God Bless!

  1. Jessi was the greatest, I followed her whole TV and racing career which started many years ago.
    She was a very cool lady and extremely talented, she will be missed by many!

  2. Very sad my sincerest condolences to the Combs family. Take comfort in the fact she was doing something she felt great pleasure doing and wasn’t killed by a stray bullitt during a drive by. Although I am surprised more people who tie a rocket on there backs aren’t killed.

    • RIP Jessi the love for cars is a special kind of love. It gets in your blood. Prayers for your family. You leave a big hole in the hearts of car people.

  3. She was the only female I ever saw that knew what the hell she was doing and could actually cut up a frame and make it work.

    • I am so sorry to hear this about Jessi. I watched her many times on TV. She was a very smart Girl and loved what she was doing. I’m sorry for your loss. God Bless all her Family and may she rest in Peace!!!

  4. A tragedy often seen in the pursuit of excellence. A bright light extinguished, young, too young.
    Loved her talent & spirit during her TV career- but she was far more than a "TV personality". Bit part SNL players, the "stars" of Hallmark specials and daytime drama players are TV personalities. Jessi was much more.
    I wish I could take this back. Too young, too soon.
    Godspeed Ms. Jessi, and rock a heavenly GTO.

    • Rest in peace sister motor/gear head . Your skills, determination, and character will be missed. May the gods of speed bless your soul!

  5. She was awesome, and she still is. She reminds me of the book, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull". She is going to be even more awesome and go even faster in her next run. What an inspiration!! Her family must be proud, but she is still with them in spirit. There is no separation; it is an illusion in the minds of men. Go Jessi Go!!!!

  6. Sad day for friends and family I’m sure. I’d rather pass at a young age doing what I Love, than walk the earth as an old man knowing that my dreams and goals where never realized.
    God bless Jesse, family and friends

    • Tragic loss!! THANKS JESSI for all the wonderful things you did for so many in your way too short years amongst us. RIP. Hopefully Chip Foose and Jay Leno will champion a TV Special on your impressive life so we, and many more may appreciate you even more and a long time. God’s Speed!!!

  7. RIP
    I think a story about her life and accomplishes in a biography would be a great TRIBUTE to her I have seen much of her TV accomplishes but nothing in early life growing the woman she turned out to be? I watch a lot of mechanical women on TV but not sure any enjoyed as much as she seemed to? not down grading any I think they are all great! I like cars and trucks.

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