The crash happened shortly before 6 a.m. just east of the Greevnille Road exit.
CHP Officer Steve Creel said the chain-reaction crash, which involved four vehicles, started when a Honda Civic rear-ended a red Mitsubishi Eclipse for unknown reasons.
The driver of the Eclipse pulled to the right shoulder and stopped, but the Honda Civic came to rest in lanes of traffic, where it was hit by a silver Nissan Murano, Creel said.
That impact caused the Honda to lose its lights, and the darkened car was pushed to the No. 2 or 3 lane.
A Chevrolet Tahoe then struck the Honda, crushing its rear and shoving it to the center median, where it caught fire, Creel said.
When emergency crews arrived, they found the Honda engulfed in flames.
The fire has been put out, but the Honda's driver, who was believed to be alone in the car, died at the scene, Creel said.
Creel did not yet know whether the victim was a man or a woman.
The female driver of the Chevy Tahoe complained of pain and was taken to a hospital as a precaution, he said.
No other injuries were reported.
As of 7:45 a.m., only one eastbound lane was open and traffic was gridlocked. Westbound traffic was also backed up as passing motorists slowed to watch the activity on the other side of the highway.