“You did it, Jessi.”
Those were the words spoken by North American Eagle Crew Chief Les Holm Saturday, September 21, during the Jessi Combs Life at Full Speed tribute at the Petersen Automotive Museum, where the speeds she achieved before her final run were announced. On her first run that fateful Tuesday, she went 515.346 mph. As per the rules of land-speed racing, the run had to be backed up for a record to be official. Holm recalled during his speech, “After the first run, Jessi asked me, ‘What do I need to do to back this up so we can get this record?’ I said you just need to go faster than 515 so there’s no question.” Jessi did a whole lot more than that. On her return pass, she clocked a speed of 548 mph.
For years Jessi was chasing Kitty O’Neil’s speed record of 512 mph to cement herself as the Fastest Woman on Earth, and with the speed submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records of 531.889 mph, the title will be hers. “She was pushing the limit every single day,” said Dana Williamson, conservator of the Petersen Automotive Museum. That statement couldn’t be truer. Over the next couple of weeks, the team will be in communication with Guinness discussing the 531.889-mph record in hopes of making it official.
The event at the Petersen Automotive Museum was curated entirely by women who were close to Jessi and celebrated her life as a racing driver and a titan of the automotive industry by displaying many of her personal effects from her shop and the projects she was working on before she passed. It also put the spotlight on the newly founded Jessi Combs Foundation, an organization that advocates for women’s and young girls’ education in the trades. “We need everyone to support this foundation,” said Jessi’s boyfriend, Terry Madden with a wavering voice. “Jess was touching the world, and she was helping all these little girls, and we were going to do all these programs. They can’t be ‘going to do’s,’ they have to be ‘will do’s.’ I am doing this. We are doing this.”