From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Americans gobble down 818 hot dogs every second, according to National Hot Dog & Sausage Council statistics. On Independence Day alone, the people of this great nation devour approximately 150 million hot dogs.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut hopes to be responsible for at least 69 of them. That's how many HDB (hot dogs and buns, in competitive eating speak) it would take to best his previous record of 68 in 10 minutes, set at the 2009 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The former construction manager turned full-time competitive eater tied that stat last year, locking in his sixth consecutive victory at the Coney Island contest.
But while 29-year-old Chestnut is the odds-on favorite and holds the number one spot on Major League Eating's leader board, he faces competition from a ravenous crop of competitors. Number two-ranked Tim "Eater X" Janus, holds records in consumption of ramen noodles, pulled pork and burritos, and finished second in the 2012 contest with 52.25 HDB.
Fourth-ranked Matt "Megatoad" Stonie is, at 21, one of the youngest competitors in the sport (yes, Major League Eating even tried to get competitive eating considered as an Olympic event), but holds impressive records in birthday cake eating (five and a half pounds in just under nine minutes) and "slugburgers" (30 in 10 minutes).
However none of them will have to fear falling into Sonya Thomas' web this year. The number three-ranked eater, better known as "The Black Widow," will compete in the separate women's section of the contest, and is favored to best her 2012 record of 41 hot dogs and buns.
Also absent on the main stage will be Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobayashi, whose multi-year dominance of the contest was ended by Chestnut's 66 HDB outing in 2007 in his first competitive eating event. Kobayashi has been locked in a contract dispute with Major League Eating for several years and will be hosting a separate event at the Eventi Hotel in Manhattan, a borough away from the action in Brooklyn.
This is the 98th year of the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. The 2013 competition marks a major comeback for its venue, Coney Island, which suffered severe damage to its boardwalk and local businesses when Superstorm Sandy ravaged the East Coast in October, 2012.
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