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Wiener’s circle: Chestnut challenger hopes to prevail at Nathan’s Famous food fight

Chomp champ: At this year’s Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hog Dog Eating Contest, challenger Carmen Cincotti hopes to topple reigning champion Joey Chestnut.
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He’ll have his hot dogs and cake, and eat them too!

A rising star is looking to rip the Mustard Belt from reigning champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut at this year’s Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island. Competitive eater Carmen Cincotti, who hails from faraway New Jersey, has been stuffing his face with franks all year in an effort to out-eat Chestnut on the big day, after his second place disgrace last year, he said.

“It’s been a long year of practice and I’m excited to see what I can do,” said Cincotti. “You can practice all you want, but when you get on that stage it’s a different game. I’m going to get as prepared as I can be and give Joey some hell.”

Cincotti, who is just 24 years old, says he plans to down more than 70 dogs during his struggle to beat the 72 frankfurters that Chestnut devoured during the grueling 10-minute competition last year.

“I keep my number close to my chest, I don’t need Joey knowing how high I’m gonna hit — over 70 would be nice,” he said.

The aspiring champion says this year he really started upping his training game to dethrone Chestnut, a 10-time winner of the coveted trophy, after coming within a dozen dogs of the trophy last year.

“The past couple of years has been very casual,” said Cincotti. “It wasn’t until last year when I hit 60 that I was like ‘Wait a minute, there’s actually hope for me!’ And this year I definitely increased the frequency and seriousness of my practices.”

Cincotti says he frequently fires up some fresh franks and practices chowing down in order to get ready for the moment the inimitable announcer blows his horn — and he hopes the crowds will go wild and help push him towards a win.

“When George Shea screams go, just be ready! I hope they taste good, the crowd is into it, and if they are I’m going to have a good day,” he said.

July 4 is also Cincotti’s 25th birthday, so even after a stomach full of wieners, the long-time fan of the competition is going to save some room to celebrate, he said.

“Every year on my birthday, I’d turn it on and watch the contest,” said Cincotti. “I’m gonna try to keep a little room in the tank for beer and cake.”

Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest [1310 Surf Ave. at Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island, (718) 333–2202, www.nathansfamous.com]. July 4 at 11 am. Free.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 5:41 pm, July 9, 2018
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