Stewart to attend Hall of Fame induction ceremony

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CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Two-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will attend the inaugural Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday.

Stewart was one of several active champions under fire for not planning to attend any of the Hall of Fame events. He was testing during the May 11 grand opening, and missed Thursday night's gala because it was his birthday.

Stewart traditionally spends Sunday at the Indianapolis 500 for "bump day" and had planned to do so this year.

He has changed those plans, and will walk the red carpet before Sunday's induction ceremony begins.

"I'll be there," the Indiana native said Friday. "I'm excited about it from the standpoint that I didn't grow up in the South. I didn't grow up around NASCAR racing, originally. It's important for me to be able to go there and learn about the history of our sport."

Active champions Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Stewart did not attend the grand opening. Also missing was Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose late father is being inducted.

When asked about their absence at the grand opening, Earnhardt Jr., Gordon and Johnson all said they would be at other events.

Earnhardt sat with his family at Thursday night's gala, and will attend Sunday's induction ceremony, as will four-time champions Johnson and Gordon.

Bobby Labonte, the 2000 series champion, and Kurt Busch, the 2004 champion, both attended the grand opening.

Matt Kenseth, the 2003 champion, said Friday he was not planning to attend the induction but that could change.