Under the sweltering heat of the midday sun, Joey Chestnut clutched an ice cold red Gatorade, guzzling sips between heavy breaths in an attempt to digest what turned out to be a record setting meal. The San Jose, Calif., native claimed his seventh Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest title on Thursday by devouring 69 hot dogs, a new world record. With the victory, Chestnut surpassed six-time champion Takeru Kobayashi as the winningest participant in a contest that has been held each year at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Ave. in Coney Island since 1916. [embedgallery id=180002]
"I'm feeling pretty good that I broke the record," Chestnut said after taking in more than 20,000 calories in front of an estimated 40,000 people and a national television audience.
Chestnut, who entered the stage by way of a mustard-colored chariot to chants of "Joey" and "USA," sent the Coney Island faithful into euphoria during the final seconds of the competition as he soaked the last few buns in water and pushed through the pain to set a new world record. Runner-up Matt Stonie, also from San Jose, held pace until roughly halfway through the 10-minute competition, but his 51 dogs proved to be no match for the world's top competitive eater.
The exciting finish capped off a day chock full of storylines. The beloved Astrotower, a Luna Park staple, was closed as construction workers started to dismantle the famed ride. In the shadow of the tower, Major League Eating's premier event continued, with Sonya Thomas claiming her fourth-consecutive women's championship in the closest event in years. She downed 37 dogs, three-fourths more than runner-up Juliet Lee.
For master of ceremonies George Shea, the competition was another step toward the revitalization process of the New York coastline in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the resurgence of the borough he calls home.
“The storm was devastating but the community came together in a way that no one ever expected that it would,” Shea said.
“I wanted Joey to break the record just to say that this contest was never going to be canceled, we will always hold it and he is without question the greatest champion ever.”
Follow Chris Longo on Twitter @east_coastbias