Jessi Combs, race driver, TV and Autoblog host, dies in land speed record attempt
30 August 2019 - Autoblog
Jessi Combs, a well-known racer, fabricator, and host of automotive TV shows including Autoblog's "The List" video series, died yesterday while attempting to beat her own land speed record on the dry lake bed of the Alvord Desert in Oregon. She was 39 years old.
Combs initially set a four-wheeled vehicle record of 398 miles per hour in October 2013 driving the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger. She had hit speeds of over 483 mph in subsequent followup runs as recently as last year, but mechanical issues kept those attempts out of the official record books. Just three days ago in an Instagram post, Combs indicated she was aiming for 619 mph in the jet-powered vehicle.
Her family said in a statement that "Jessi's most notable dream was to become the fastest woman on Earth" and that "she left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history."
Jessi served as co-host of "The List" during its entire 70-episode run from December 2011 through December 2017. In addition to its regular publication on Autoblog, the show was broadcast on Speed Network in 2013 and Velocity in 2015. "The List" won an Online Film & Video Webby award in 2014 in the Travel and Adventure category. She was also a host of "Overhaulin'," "Extreme 4x4" and "All Girls Garage," a part-time host of "Mythbusters," and appeared on "Jay Leno's Garage."
Jessi cultivated a passion for speed and automobiles soon after her birth in Rapid City, S.D. Her career took off after she moved to Laramie, Wyo., to attend WyoTech, where she received a degree in custom automotive fabrication. She raced the King of the Hammers event in 2010, 2012, 2013, and earned a spec class win in 2014 and the distinction of becoming the first woman ever to place at any Ultra4 event. In 2011, Jessi raced the Baja 1000, finishing second in the Class 10 division.
"I will try everything at least twice," she said in her official biography. "I wouldn't want to be jaded by the first attempt."
Jessi's family has issued a statement:
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 details of the crash have not been released at this time.
Jessi was known for her bright smile, positivity, and tenacious pursuit of the fulfillment of her dreams. 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.
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 known for her hosting work on television series including "All Girls Garage", "Overhaulin' ", Extreme 4x4 and Autoblog's "The List".
Jessi is survived by her Mother Nina (Chuck, niece NIna Alayne) Darrington, Father Jamie (Sandy) Combs, brother Kelly Combs (Cary, Eli, Ethan and Anna), sisters Danielle Theis (Jacin, Justice, Nation), Brother Austin Darrington (Leah, Lane) Kayla Green, Kyrie Darrington, Natasha Darrington
Step sisters Rebekah Hall (son Aaren Kearns), Arielle Hall (son Dru Hanson). And Jessi's love Terry Madden and his son Dalton.
A celebration of Jessi's life in being planned and a foundation is being created to continue her efforts to empower women and young girls to follow their dreams.
Adam Morath, Autoblog's director of business management and former executive producer of "The List," remembered the spirit and energy Jessi brought to the show.
"Fearless and accomplished behind the wheel. Kind and unassuming in person. Jessi Combs was an inspiration to us all at Autoblog, and it was an honor to have collaborated with her for so many years.
"One of the most compelling elements of 'The List' was the odd-couple dynamic between Jessi and her co-host, Patrick McIntyre. The show, as originally devised, was to pair a young, enthusiastic upstart with a gruff veteran of the auto industry. In our test shoots, both presenters were male. When Jessi auditioned for the role of the auto expert, however, our approach shifted and the show was much better for it.
"Both Jessi and Patrick were competitive, but also clearly one another's biggest cheerleaders. They formed an amazing alliance and deep friendship that provided so many thrilling, hilarious and memorable moments for audiences of "The List."