Joey Chestnut Retains Mustard Belt

Chris NolanContributor IJuly 4, 2009

Joey Chestnut set a new world record of 68 hot dogs to beat Takeru Kobayashi for a third year in a row.

Chestnut's previous 10-minute record was 59 hot dogs; this year, he beat even the 12-minute mark of 66 dogs. Kobayashi also broke the old world record, wolfing down 64 1/2 franks. Patrick Bertoletti came in third with a personal-record 55 dogs.

Some observations and thoughts on the contest:

First of all, congrats to Chestnut for his great success. This "skill" is considered by many to be disgusting and barbaric, but a high threshold of pain and hard training is required to manage what he's done. Commiserations to Kobayashi; he's a great competitor, and chances are, he hasn't won his last Belt.

Kobayashi took an early lead, like last year. Important to keep in mind is that Kobayashi did beat Chestnut in a recent one-on-one P'Zone eating contest, winning by a 5 3/4 - 5 1/2 margin in six minutes.

Chestnut pulled ahead though, and by a lot. Personally, I thought he was going to get the messy-eating yellow card. I mean, a few crumbs around the lips is normal, but bits of bun were falling from his face left and right. In any case, Chestnut pulled ahead by a few hot dogs in the middle.

Chestnut seemed to slow dow—or in any case, more than it looked like he might—and Kobayashi narrowed the lead to one. It looked like Chestnut might run into trouble, but Kobayashi looked fine.

Frankly (no pun intended), it's really uncomfortable to watch Chestnut eat. He sweats a lot, veins pop out of his forehead, and he just looks really tense—I felt the whole time like he was going to explode. Kobayashi, on the other hand, is calm and collected the whole time. It was a good sign to see that he was chewing with his right jaw, the one that has been nagging him for the past few years.

Chestnut did end up having an incredible 90-second push at the end, extending the lead to nearly four hot dogs. He looked relaxed for the first time when the contest ended. Kobayashi just looked dismayed.

What and who to look for next year:

The way things are looking, next year might be a bit of a setback for everybody. The P'Zone contest and Kobayashi using both jaws is a sign of a turn-around for the six-time champion. The way Chestnut eats is worrying, but he's been unstoppable at Coney Island the last three years. Here are some others to look for:

Patrick Bertoletti: Finished third despite "mediocre" qualifier of 26 dogs. Just keeps getting better and better every year.

Tim Janus: 50 dogs at qualifier, ate right behind Chestnut and Kobayashi for most of the contest.

Sonya Thomas: Great technique, consistently eats in 30's. Shortened contest helps her to minimize effect of relatively low capacity; also doesn't have the ring of fat around her stomach that restricts capacity and which most eaters have.