AP Auto Racing Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- It all started with a silk foulard fedora.
Townsend Bell proudly rocked the Robert Graham hat around Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, earning the clothing line immeasurable free publicity. The colors of the fedora happened to match his firesuit, and Bell was a legitimate fan of the label.
A year later, the driver has partnered with Robert Graham for his Indianapolis 500 effort and the relationship is clearly sticking with the clothier's motto of "out with the old, in with the bold."
When KV Racing Technology rolls out Bell's car Sunday when IMS opens for 500 preparations, it will be boldly designed with the Robert Graham logos and color splash. That includes the cockpit, which most teams traditionally leave a solid color. But Bell's will be awash in bright reds, oranges, purples and blues.
The same look has been created for the shirts the KV Racing crew will wear, as well as Bell's firesuit. But Bell's fedora has been replaced by a Robert Graham-logoed checkered driving cap, and the crew shirts aren't traditional for the designer: The backs are adorned with the faces of several previous Indy 500 winners.
"We wanted to pay homage to all of the past winners, so we created this remarkable collage," said founder and co-chairman Robert Stock. "In the pictures, on the actual shirt, you'll see Al Unser Jr., Al Unser Sr., Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, all of these Indianapolis greats."
Robert Graham actually has a collectors club for anyone who owns at least 100 shirts, which start at about $300. The company plans to bring 20 of the collectors to the May 25 race and present them with their own Indianapolis 500 shirts.
It's not uncommon for clothing designers to back drivers in the Indianapolis 500. The drivers and team owners are in Indianapolis for almost a month before the actual race and the parties and appearances sometimes seem just as important as the practice time.
Robert Talbott this week announced it is sponsoring Rahal Letterman Lanigan beginning with Saturday's inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
The deal calls for Robert Talbott to provide RLL with co-branded sportswear for the team, while driver Graham Rahal and the executive management team will get a more complete wardrobe that includes sport shirts, sweaters and jackets.
The sponsorship comes on the heels of last year's launch of Robert Talbott Motorsports, which was created to support American motorsports and young drivers.
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