by Matt Konkle
Jessi Combs—considered the fastest woman on four wheels, as well as a dynamic television personality, skilled vehicle builder, and fabricator—was killed Tuesday following a crash in Oregon’s Alvord Desert, local authorities said.
Combs, 39, was racing on a dry lake bed in a section of desert often used for that purpose in remote Harney County, sheriff's Lt. Brian Needham said in a statement.
The accident is currently under investigation.
Combs’ death was also confirmed Wednesday via a social media post by Terry Madden, a member of Combs’ team.
”I have never loved or been loved by anyone as much as this amazing woman. She was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know,” Madden said in his post. “I was the first one there and trust me we did everything humanly possible to save her.”
”She dedicated her life to helping support others dreams and I promise I will continue that.”
Combs earned the title of 'fastest woman on four wheels' after breaking 398 miles-per-hour in her jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger back in 2013. Tuesday’s crash occurred while she attempted to break her record. Last fall, she had piloted that same vehicle to 483.227 mph in a shakedown run that ended early after a hydraulic bay door lock mechanism broke, letting the door open and ending the test session.
Combs was an icon in the automotive world, and was host, builder and technical expert on numerous shows like Xtreme 4x4, Overhaulin', Truck U and Two Guys Garage. She also appeared on Velocity Channel's All Girls Garage, and was a host and builder on a season of Discovery Channel's Mythbusters.
As a world-class racer, Combs was the first woman to place at Ultra4's King of the Hammers, took home a Class-10 podium finish at the Baja 1000 and she ran in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles—an all-women rally race. She even became the first woman to compete in ‘The Race of Gentlemen’, driving a twin-engine 1913 Ford Model T.
”She was one of a kind and a pioneer,” said Rick Pewe, Editor-In-Chief of JP Magazine and Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame Member. “She died chasing the dream as we all should have the chance to.”
Not only was Combs a driving force in the racing and motorsports community, but she also served as a role model to both men and women throughout the industry—traveling around the country to many events such as the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) event in Las Vegas, Nevada to interact with her fans.
“Jessi Combs was a modern-day motorsports hero in the old-school SEMA mold,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “She was a shining beacon of leadership, creativity, courage and authenticity. Her spirit, accomplishments and volunteerism made a tremendous positive impact—and will continue to be an inspiration for so many.”
Her family issued a statement late Wednesday.
"Jessi was known for her bright smile, positivity, and tenacious pursuit of the fulfillment of her dreams," the statement read. "Her drive was infectious, and she served as a role model for young Girls, and Women around the world. People that loved her and followed her became family, all bonded together by adventure and passion. Her fans adored her, and she lived to inspire them. Jessi’s most notable dream was to become the fastest woman on Earth, a dream she had been chasing since 2012."
"Combs was one of the rare dreamers with the bravery to turn those possibilities into reality, and she left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history."
Fittingly, her last Facebook post read: "I just want to thank all of you for your support and loyalty. That’s all. Have a nice day."
Our condolences go out to her family, friends, teammates, and fans.