Twelve minutes. Fifty-nine-and-a-half wieners and buns. That’s all you really need to know about the recent Southwest Regional Hot Dog Eating Championship at the Arizona Mills Mall in suburban Tempe, Arizona. (Hey, it really is a sport! It’s on ESPN!) But winner Joey Chestnut, a San Jose State University college student, got more than just a free trip to New York, a year’s supply of hot dogs, wicked heartburn and a $250 gift certificate. He also gets to bask in the knowledge that he’s trumped the reigning international champ of speed-dog eating.
That would be Takeru Kobayashi, who has won the Nathan’s Famous contest at Coney Island for the past six years. Last year, Kobayashi topped out at 53 and 3/4 dogs last year—and almost forfeited the competition by gagging on his last few dogs, since the rules are clear: You hurl, you lose. (If you really want to know, you can vomit—but the vomit can’t leave your mouth. Excuse us, we’re feeling a little queasy right now.)
Now, with victory—and 17 pounds of dogs—under his belt, it’s time to get back to training for the Coney Island showdown with Kobayashi, less than a month away.
Chestnut wants the Mustard Belt that his opponent hoisted above his head on Independence Day last year.
He wants that glory.
“It’s also the Fourth of July,” he said. “So it’s for America, too.”