Car worth more than $100,000 burns on highway near Knoxville known as ‘the Dragon’

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A luxury car valued at more than $100,000 burned Sunday afternoon on a notorious stretch of U.S. Highway 129 aptly known as "The Dragon."

The car fire was reported at 4:45 p.m. at mile marker 7 in Blount County. Firefighters arrived 36 minutes later to find the car in the road, engulfed in flames, according to Blount County Fire Department Capt. Kermit Easterling.         

Easterling identified the car as a 2017 Nissan GT-R, which has a sticker price of $109,900.

The man identified as the owner, Sharif Abdelbaset, wrote in a Facebook post that the car was a "Nismo" — a performance-tuned version of the GT-R that costs about $65,000 more.         

"This wasn't a wreck," Abdelbaset wrote just before 7 p.m. Sunday. "We think it was an accumulation of leaves that started the fire up in the mountain. Thankfully nobody was injured and nothing important was lost."         

In an earlier post on Sunday, Abdelbaset wrote that he was headed to TougeFest, described in a Facebook event page as an annual weekend event "filled with comradery and spirited driving" at the Fontana Village Resort in North Carolina.         

Abdelbaset's Facebook profile says he is the president of Forged Performance, based in Marietta, Georgia. The company's website says it is "one of the leading GT-R and late model import automobile specialty shops in the USA."         

Abdelbaset didn't return a request for comment Monday.

Easterling confirmed no one was injured and said authorities had "no indication" as to how the fire started. He said bystanders managed to stop the flames from spreading into the woods.         

Eddie Ball was out riding his motorcycle, taking in the fall foliage along The Dragon on Sunday. The mountainous 11-mile stretch of road is beloved by motorists and thrill-seekers due to its scenic views, sharp turns and steep drop-offs.         

Ball said he saw the expensive car stopped on the side of the road, "I guess where they took pictures of it."

Later, he said he pulled up to find the car in the road "with flames shooting out the rear end around the trunk area."

"They tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher," Ball said. "... but the fire extinguisher they had just wasn't big enough." 

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