Joey Chestnut said coronavirus restrictions may actually help him with this year’s Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
The 36-year-old competitive eater told TMZ Sports that while he’s disappointed fans won’t be allowed to attend the annual hot dog chomping contest, he thinks restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic could work in his favor.
For 2020, the Independence Day competition — which is in its 104th year and is usually held outdoors at the original Nathan’s location on Coney Island — will take place indoors at a private nearby location with no audience and strict coronavirus protocols in place.
Chestnut told the outlet the move to an indoor location could help his game as he attempts to scarf down as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes.
“There’s a little bit of a bonus ’cause we’re gonna be eating in air conditioning and they’re less eaters, so they’re making less hot dogs so they might taste better,” Chestnut said.
The world champ added that there’s “a good chance that we might have better conditions for a world record” and said he will be pushing for it.
“I’m breaking the record this 4th of July!” the 12-time champ vowed. “My record’s 74, 75 just sounds like a good number but we’ll see. If I’m feeling it, if I’m in the perfect rhythm, 77 is doable.”
Last year, Chestnut downed 71 hotdogs in the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest, falling short of his own record of 74 but still winning the competition.
ESPN will broadcast the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at noon ET on July 4. The competition will be “one of the first” major televised post-COVID competitive events to be held in the United States, a press release stated, per The New York Post.
Due to the pandemic, fewer competitors will be allowed to enter the contest to ensure social distancing. Past competitions have featured 15 contenders each in the male and female divisions, but for 2020 only five men and five women will be allowed to fight for the Mustard Belt as Chestnut and six-time female division winner Miko Sudo return to defend their titles.
Chestnut has been getting ready for the hot dog eating contest while quarantining at home. The food fanatic recently posted a photo of him with a tray full of hot dogs as he prepared to practice for the televised eating event.
When an Instagram fan asked him if past winner Matt Stonie is the favorite to be runner-up this year, Chestnut wrote, “Idk, if you’re not 1st you’re last! Lol.”
The Nathan Hot Dogs’ winningest champ added that Matt, Geoff [Esper], and himself will all be “pretty close.”