Joey Logano’s visit to the media center Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway must have felt odd.

Charlotte marks the second elimination race of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, which Logano was knocked out of a few weeks ago. It was the first time in the elimination era that Logano and the No. 22 team didn’t advance past the first round. He has either been a Round of 8 driver or a championship contender in the finale.

The 2023 season hasn’t been kind to the reigning series champion. Being excluded from the hunt early in the postseason is not a feeling Logano is familiar with experiencing.

“Yeah, it burns, it stings, it’s frustrating,” he said. “But it is what it is. We’ve just been fighting away trying to make our cars better for next year at this point and trying to get as many points as we can. We can still finish up to fifth (in the championship standings), so there is still racing to be done and stuff that makes it worth it. But it hurts knowing you don’t have a chance to win the big trophy, which is always the goal when we start the season.”

Logano has one top-10 finish in the last five races — a fifth-place at Kansas Speedway. And yet the 14 top-10 finishes Logano has on the se ason is the fourth-most in the series (William Byron leads all drivers with 17).

The bad days, however, have been too much to overcome for Logano. It has been a down season for Ford with aerodynamic deficiencies that have hindered its teams, particularly on the downforce-sensitive intermediate tracks.

Logano earned a postseason berth with a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the spring. He has not won since.

The team has since begun thinking and working outside the box. Having the freedom to experiment or go down different paths to see what does or doesn’t work is the silver lining of being eliminated from the postseason.

“I can’t say it’s really worked yet, but we’re trying different things or at least answering questions that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to answer,” Logano said. “We’ll swing at it and try things that are out of our comfort zone. I think that part’s good, and maybe we’ll hit on something that helps us. If not, we got what we got.”

With the diverse set of racetracks still in the postseason, one would think Logano’s team will have a good notebook from their experiments. The problem is how quickly setups evolve in the series, and how each weekend requires something different.

“Each road course is different these days,” Logano said. “But really, what we need to make the most difference on now is not only on the road courses but the speedways, and Phoenix in particular as well. I think those places we can keep working on.”

Logano qualified seventh for Sunday’s race at Charlotte.

Ford will roll out an updated Mustang next season, which will coincide with a new production model. It’s great timing for Ford race teams, as the update could help their competitive pitfalls.

“I’ve seen some details on it; it looks cool,” Logano said of next season’s race car. “As long as it’s as fast as it looks, we’ll be all right.

“There are a lot of talks throughout our place and all of Ford teams, I’m sure. Hopefully we made the right decisions. We know which way wasn’t the right way, so we should know what way is the right way now.”