Dale Corzine – called “The Tank” forever by anybody who knew him because he sure is as big as a tank – looks at 300 pounds in the rear-view mirror. That’s also where all the hot-dog-eating challengers who have faced him are – way back.
For six years running, Corzine has destroyed all York County comers and dozens of hot dogs. Nobody, in the six years Rock Hill’s Ebenezer Grill has held its hot dog eating contest on July 4, has come close to whipping Corzine.
Mere mortals have tried, failed and held their bellies.
So today, The Tank takes his ample appetite and unblemished record to the largest stage of all for hot dogs – a winner-take-all shot at a spot in the July 4 Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest at New York’s Coney Island.
The 10-minute weenie sprint is at 1 p.m. today at Concord Mills mall.
“I decided this week it is time to give the big time a shot,” said The Tank.
If he wins, The Tank plans to take the “Home of the Big Weenie” onto the national stage before thousands of fans and millions of TV viewers on ESPN on Independence Day.
“If it wasn’t for Ebenezer Grill, I wouldn’t be a six-time champ,” acknowledged The Tank. “You have to be loyal in hot dog-eating.”
The Tank, a telecommunications installer, just showed up to watch at the Ebenezer Grill in 2006, but the crowd saw his bulk and demanded he belly up. He won in a rout. Each year since, The Tank has rolled over and demolished the competition.
Last year at Ebenezer Grill, The Tank broke his own local record of 16 dogs by downing – buns and all – 16 and 1/2 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Last year’s champ at the regional qualifier at Concord Mills ate 20 and is supposed to return. He is nicknamed “Big” and beat a “Beast” and a “Super” and other behemoths from dozens of states.
“The Tank” is a great nickname but Loyd Ardrey, Ebenezer Grill owner, chewed on another.
Dale Corzine is now nicknamed Dale “Eating Machine” Corzine, too.
“We helped launch the legend and we will back our legend as far as he can go,” Ardrey said Friday morning during the busy breakfast rush at his restaurant.
Ebenezer Grill became an international sensation in 2005 after The (Rock Hill) Herald reported how pranksters had stolen the 12-foot giant hot dog sign from the restaurant’s roof.
He created a marketing campaign of bumper stickers and more after media as far away as California retold The Herald’s tale of weenie woe. Ardrey put up a new sign, gave interviews until his throat hurt and directions to tourists and locals alike.
After the theft, Ardrey started his Rock Hill chow-down in 2006 to raise thousands of dollars for charities – and will hold his contest again this year on July 4.
Yet the bigger the contest, the more dogs are eaten. The five-time defending national champ at Coney Island is Joey Chestnut – a skinny guy who last year ate 68 dogs. The women’s champ ate an astounding 40.
“Our boy has to be tough,” said Ardrey. “These skinny guys, they eat so much and so fast you gotta watch out when you are serving them or you might lose a finger.”
Each of the past six years, “Eating Machine” Corzine has donated his winnings to charity himself, and upped his dog-eating exploits to boot. He started with a dozen dogs in 2006. But 20 is a leap of 3 and a half dogs from last year.
Can he do it?
“Here’s my plan,” said Corzine.
“I’ll eat a big breakfast. Eggs, bacon, toast – all of it. I’ll drive up there – it’s about an hour, maybe less – and by that time I’ll be hungry.”