November '19

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86 THE SHOP NOVEMBER 2019 A MOUNTAIN OF ACTIVITY If you're reading this article, chances are you know her story. Born in South Dakota, she grew up in a family that embraced adventure and exploration, especially off- road racing. Her great grandmother even raced cars. Jessi was an artist, but her love of automobiles and metalworking led her to WyoTech. In 2004, she graduated at the top of her class with a degree in custom automotive fabrication. The years that fol- lowed were a mountain of activity—building a 1966 Mercury Cyclone for the 2004 SEMA Sh ow ; w o rk i n g o n shows like Overhaulin', PowerBlock's Xtreme 4X4, MythBusters, Two Guys Garage, All Girls Garage, AOL's The List:1001 Car Things To Do Before You Die and more. Along the way, Jessi worked with Lin- coln Electric to develop a line of women's welding gear. And her love of off-road racing never took a break. In 2011, she took home a class 10 second place in the Baja 1000. She raced Ultra4s at King of the Hammers in 2010, '12 and '13, won spec class in 2014 and earned a first-place finish in 2016. In 2013, she became the fastest woman on four wheels, driving the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Chal- lenger to a record speed of 398 mph. She went on countless adventures and took everyone on social media along for the ride. S h e m a d e t h e s e adventures seem less out of reach. She turned the unattainable into the possible. Her passion for making a difference sur- faced again in 2015 when she and Theresa Contreras created The Real Deal. This out- reach organization offers classes and semi- nars on welding and automotive skills, with an emphasis on getting women involved. It became Jessi's main focus. She envi- sioned it as a way to get women into the trades to learn a new skill and give them a chance to change their lives and have control over their futures. The world lost this shining star of wom- en's automotive on Aug. 27 in a racing acci- dent in Oregon. I talked to three people whose lives Jessi impacted, and learned a little more about who she truly was—a funny, amazingly strong spirit who squeezed the fullest amount out of each day and who saw her life's work as helping others. And, a friend whose humor had a healing impact on those around her. TERRY MADDEN Terry Madden was Jessi's boyfriend. Like Jessi, he's someone who grabs life and makes the most of it. He's the owner of Madden Oil & Gas field services, as well as an accomplished Ultra4 off-road racer, talented fabricator and builder. Terry first met Jessi in 2010 at the Reno Stampede Race for Ultra4. He had no clue who she was at the time, but with so many things in common, they instantly hit it off. Her celebrity status was never a factor, he says. It was her drive, Jessi dressing up for The Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride. (Photo courtesy Terry Madden) Jessi Combs with the 2019 Strider bike she built for The Flying Piston Charity Organization. (Photo courtesy Terry Madden) Welding and wearing one of her signature Lincoln Electric polka dot helmets. (Photo courtesy Terry Madden) REMEMBERING JESSI COMBS: "THE GOALS I HAD WITH JESSI DIDN'T SEEM POSSIBLE BEFORE JESSI, BUT WITH JESSI, EVERYTHING WAS POSSIBLE." TERRY MADDEN Terry Madden and Jessi doing what they loved—off-road racing. (Photo courtesy Terry Madden)

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