July 4, 2010 — -- It was hot, it was sweaty, it was gross -- and in the end, it wasn't even close.
From the moment the clock started its 10-minute countdown, Joey Chestnut ran away from the rest of the field of 16 competitors and won his fourth consecutive Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y.
After consuming 54 hot dogs and buns, the American walked away with the mustard-yellow belt and $30,000.
"You know what? I came out here and I knew what I had to do," he told ESPN after his victory. "And it's the Fourth of July. I was just having fun eating hot dogs."
Chestnut's main rival, six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi, never competed. He was unable to reach a contract agreement with Major League Eating.
"If he were a real man he'd be on the stage," Chestnut told ESPN. "There's no reason for him not to be here."
Kobayashi's absence from the competition left Chestnut free to scarf his way to victory. His 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes was short of his own record -- 68 -- set in 2009.
Thousands sweated in 90-plus-degree heat and an unforgiving sun to watch Chestnut and the other eaters twist, bend and bounce their bodies to aid the consumption of Nathan's hot dogs.
"I stopped drinking water today, so I was a little bit dehydrated going into the contest," Chestnut said. "So I was slower than I wanted to be. So it's all right. I beat the competition. If anybody else was here, I would have beat them too."
No eaters suffered a disqualifying "urge contrary to swallowing."
The battle for stomach superiority has been waged every year since 1916 -- and is perhaps the best-known event in the field of competitive eating.
Hot Dogs: Behind the Casing
Hot dogs are made from small cubes of meat that are trimmed from large carcasses and roasts.
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, yes there is such a thing, says in 2009 consumers spent more than $1.6 billion on hot dogs and sausages in U.S. supermarkets.
"It's about a third of all Americans who are going to have a hot dog on a regular basis," said Harry Balzer, vice president of the research firm NPD Group.